The population of Detroit fell by 25% between 2000 and 2010. While the Motor City make news for its growing number of vacant lots and abandoned homes, community groups are working hard to revitalize their city. Their efforts attracted the attention of Master of Landscape Architecture student Erica Shearer, who is working on a project exploring the role designers can play in community building.
"While the city has been struggling for decades, the people have adapted. Amazing things are happening," saysShearer, who has been conducting a series of interviews and focus group with residents to understand how landscape architects can benefit from adapting the models of engagement used by successful community groups around Detroit.
"I have listened to the collective knowledge of long-time residents, community organizers, as well as artists and designers who work to help benefit communities currently excluded from the design process," Shear explains. Learning about a neighborhood's social cohesion instead of customary data driven metrics exhibits a far more rich reading of place.
What she learns in her interviews will help Shearer implement a cleanup project on the east side of Detroit. "This event will clean up an abandoned lot (pictured below), provide social space for the neighborhood, and begin to form relationships between community members and those involved with the clean up," says Shearer. With the material gathered for the lot, she will bring community members together to build a series of objects that identify with the theme of home.
"Detroit has historically shown the world what it has to look forward to," Shearer explains, "this is still the case in 2012. It is a city of makers, of original talent and achievement as well as innovative problem solving. People working in Detroit invent their own practice and share their resources without restraint. There is a collective understanding that by supporting the efforts of the greater community the result will bring a much bigger gain. To quote Cher, Detroit is a small town dude with a big city attitude."
You can follow Shearer's work on her blog here.
To learn more about the landscape architecture program visit their website.