DCDC-sponsored studios are rooted in the mission of the Detroit Collaborative Design Center, which is to provide quality design services through community-based design. Through this lens, these studios develop urban and architectural strategies by using the urban context, research and mapping, and stakeholder collaboration as the driving forces of design.
Featured Studios
Beyond the Public Square                                                                                                                             FALL 2016
Public space is an essential element of healthy communities. This studio explored what it means for spaces to be truly public and asked the following questions:

What is public space? Who is it for? How do we define “public”? What impacts the “public-ness” of spaces? How do we design more public spaces? How does public space support community? What do things like safety, accessibility, visibility, aesthetics and comfort have to do with it? How do we recognize and design public spaces in Detroit neighborhoods today?

In particular, this studio focused on the implications and variations of public space in Detroit neighborhoods. This premise ties closely to the underpinnings of the DCDC, which endeavors to create spaces for all Detroiters. Understanding how people use public space and what makes neighborhood spaces truly public is essential to this work. Projects were rooted in Detroit neighborhoods with community advisors from each area joining the conversation throughout the semester, providing a better understanding of the communities who would use the public spaces designed in this studio.


Instructor: Dan Pitera, Ceara O'Leary

Students: Brandon Clark, Sean Duranovich, Austin Koleszar, Juan Pablo Lontscharitsch, Dakota Mayes, Alyssa Monroe, Matthew Northcott, Ayomide Okunlola, Rachel Pisano, Madison Schimpf, Jefferson Stall, Da'Carla Strong

                                                            Folded Space | Rachel Pisano

                                                            Embracing Detroit's Riverfront | Matthew Northcott

WAS: Community Landscape + Spatial Transformation                                                                           FALL 2014
This studio considered physical strategies for spaces in the WAS (Warwick, Artesian, Stahelin) project area in Northwest Detroit, building upon a DCDC project and propelling it toward the next phase. Students developed multi-layered strategies for the site(s), addressed landscape, urban and architectural design elements and deployed research, mapping, and community priorities as the driving forces of design. The studio strongly emphasized process documentation as well as the use of clear graphic representation and clear verbal communication skills.

The project site was in the neighborhood adjacent to Detroit Manufacturing Systems. The specific project area was bounded by Schoolcraft to the North, the manufacturing campus to the South, Piedmont to the West and Glastonbury to the East. The primary project streets were Warwick, Artesian and Stahelin between Schoolcraft and Davison, though students were also required to consider the larger neighborhood surrounding the project area.

The client for this project was George N’Namdi, who has consulted to DMS on its community outreach and development efforts. Mr. N'Namdi and other community stakeholders participated in the students' projects by providing feedback throughout the semester.


Instructor: Charles Cross, Ceara O'Leary

Students: Sarah Black, Cory Hinterser, Daryl Murphy, Rami Niga, Mariam Okunlola, Zach Rathwell, Fatemeh Shanehsazzadeh, Linda Sloulin, Hans Stroven, Ian Templeton, Jacob Theut
                                                            Student Work | Ian Templeton

                                                            Student Work | Jacob Theut

Avis & Elsmere                                                                                                                                              FALL 2013
This studio considered physical strategies for spaces and places around, within and between the blocks of Avis and Falcon in Southwest Detroit. Students developed a multi-layered strategy for the site(s), both urban and architectural, by turning research, mapping, community priorities and analysis into the driving forces of design. Additionally, the studio strongly emphasized the use of clear graphic representation and clear verbal communication skills.

The circumstance for this studio stemmed from the long-term relationship the DCDC has with Young Nation and TAP Gallery. Young Nation came to the DCDC with a desire to continue improvements in their community and knit two distinct blocks within the community together. The studio explored the goals of the community through community participation with TAP and Young Nation while also bringing new and innovative ideas to the forefront through the students’ own research.

The studio consisted of overlapping activities of research, mapping and analysis, collaboration, and design. The studio focused heavily on how to collaborate and communicate with a community as your client. The studio provided students the opportunity to assist and attend community workshops as a spring board for design decisions.

The studio was broken down into three projects (1) a small scale design-build challenge that involved the community (2) conceptual design solutions for one of the communities’ top priorities identified in the existing TAP master plan (3) an urban strategy of the full two-block site in addition to an architectural design proposal for an existing building that straddles the two blocks.


Instructor: Dan Pitera, Krista Wilson, Christina Heximer

Students: Stephanie Cuniberti, Troy Fox, Cassandra Fullager, Hayden Juergens, Matthew Medley, Kamila Momot, Stephen Reilly Mounteer, Jessica Reager, Michael Sukiennik, Vincent Tran
                                                            Site Analysis

                                                            Student Work | Kamila Momot

                                                            Student Work | Stephanie Cuniberti

                                                            Design/Build Installation

IDEAS FOR LIVERNOIS AND ITS COMMUNITIES                                                                                       FALL 2011
Urban design studios are a powerful tool with which to confront the compelling conditions of post-industrial cities like Detroit. And while Detroit’s problems have for years been the subject of study and media attention, the Fall 2011 studio "Ideas for Livernois and its Communities," rather than dwell on this negative attention, focused on the assets and opportunities of a particular area of the city. Through this focus,the studio demonstrated that solutions do not come from any one constituency, but through synergies of collaboration.

In this way, the work illustrated here is an excellent example of collaboration among local stakeholders, the DCDC, and students from the School of Architecture’s undergraduate design studio and Master of Community Development program. The result is a plausible optimism for the area through projects that are grounded in the realities of the urban experience, and offer solutions at all scales - from the abandoned house to the struggling retail block. The projects encourage the development of mixed-use commercial corridors, create a variety of places for public life, and shape an equitable environment for a broad cross-section of users.

The most interesting aspect of this exploration was the simultaneous viability of the proposals and the interplay that emerged among the thematic groups: University + Community Connections, Reimagining the Strip, and Filling the Void. Rather than being viewed as different projects and solutions, the ideas are seen as components of a composite solution that deal with the broader issues of livability and community in Detroit’s neighborhoods.

This prompted the studio to compile the projects into a celebratory exhibition that triggered discussions about how the area can be re-imagined, and a book which solidifies the proposals and collaborations into an “idea-filled guide.” The exhibit and publication are aimed at making the Livernois Corridor area re-enter the imagination of the stakeholders of Detroit. We hope that by providing creative planning and design that complements ongoing efforts in the Livernois Corridor and its surrounding communities, the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture can help sustain the momentum for the revitalization of this area - both in its neighborhoods and commercial corridors.


Instructor: Virginia Stanard, Adjunct Professor of Architecture and Director of Urban Design at DCDC

Students: Ian Armstrong, Brooke Ellis, Monica Groblewska, Liz Kreska, Ross Piper, John Quaine, Scott Reynolds, Ethan Sims, Alison Suschak, Evan Welch, and Trevor Wilson

OBSOLESCENCE                                                                                                                                     WINTER 2009
Numerous factors have contributed to the creation of obsolescence in metropolitan Detroit: a struggling economy, loss of population, loss of industries and jobs, changes in consumer demands, real estate speculation, rampant mortgage foreclosures, poor building materials and construction techniques, and increasing commodification of the built environment, to name a few.

The Winter 2009 Obsolescence studio considered strategies for functionally and/or physically obsolete typologies in Detroit’s suburban city of Southfield, including a vacant office building, a vacant retail strip center, and a vacant foreclosed home. By challenging the notion of obsolescence and its relationship to wider strategies of urban regeneration, students turned intense urban research and analysis into the driving forces of design. Throughout this process, students asked, “In what way was the typology/space obsolete? What were the conditions that caused the obsolescence? What opportunities and/or new uses were afforded by this obsolescence? How could current systems of obsolescence be re-examined to better meet the changing conditions of the site?”

The studio consisted of the following overlapping activities also employed by the DCDC in its work:

• Research and Analysis: Students utilized research into the current forces of obsolescence as a critical driver in the formulation of design strategies.

• Collaboration: Students collaborated with DCDC staff members on their research, representation techniques, and design strategies; as well as with project stakeholders including representatives from the City of Southfield and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.

• Design: Students developed imaginative yet plausible ideas for rethinking obsolescence through a multi-layered proposal including an overall group development strategy, and an individual architectural intervention.


Instructor: Virginia Stanard, Adjunct Professor of Architecture and Director of Urban Design at DCDC

Students: Bassie Cummings, Bridget Dunsmore, Logan Fitzpatrick, Andrew Flippo, Nate Hebekeuser, Jeremy Kozlowski, Lauren Leow, Nate Lohrer, Aimee Nally, Benjamin Sanchez, and Krista Wilson
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Focus Area - Aimee Nally
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Focus Area - Benjamin Sanchez
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Focus Area - Krista Wilson

QUILTED SPACES                                                                                                                                    WINTER 2006
In a unique collaborative project, nine architecture students from the University of Detroit Mercy working with materials provided by the Architectural Salvage Warehouse of Detroit (ASWHD) designed a house of reclaimed and contemporary materials to be built in Detroit's Woodbridge Historic District. The idea to design the hybrid house was conceived by Carolyn Mosher, founder and president of the ASWHD. UDM Professors Will Wittig and Dan Pitera worked with nine 3rd and 4th year students on the project during the winter 2006 semester. Due to the quilting together of old and new elements, the studio was labeled "Quilted Spaces".

The design incorporates environmentally friendly features, makes optimal use of historic salvaged materials, and provides a model for sustainable urban rebuilding. The reclaimed materials come from a historic 6,000-square-foot mansion outside of Chicago. Reclaimed items included spectacular leaded glass windows, hardwood doors, cabinets, and flooring; and bathrooms of classic porcelain fixtures.

Students wrestled with the numerous issues involved with integrating an infill house of reclaimed and contemporary materials into a historic community dating from the 1890's, such as:

• Relate the scale and form of the house to the neighboring houses
• Align the porch, entryways, and outdoor living space to work with adjacent houses
• Place windows for maximum solar gain on a narrow lot
• Achieve optimal use of historic materials in design and detail
• Create maximum water and energy efficiency

The final design includes:

• A band of clerestory windows that will maximize winter solar gain and act as a "stack effect" chimney in summer, pulling hot air up and out of the house
• Use of reclaimed bricks for an internal, two-story thermal wall
• A water collection system that collects rainwater in a cistern for irrigation
• A high-efficiency heating and air-conditioning system that saves energy costs
• A first-floor study with full bathroom that can be converted into an accessible suite
• A second-floor balcony that can be enclosed as a third or fourth bedroom
• Low-maintenance plantings native to Michigan
• Contemporary architectural elements such as an exposed staircase
• Contemporary materials such as galvanized siding to set off the clerestory windows.

"The Quilted Space project is not intended to be a unique, one-time project," said Professor Pitera, "but is part of a neighborhood master plan for 24 vacant lots in the Woodbridge Historic District to be done by the DCDC that will provide a model of sustainable redevelopment in Detroit."


Instructors: Dan Pitera, Associate Professor of Architecture and Executive Director of DCDC
Will Wittig, Assistant Professor of Architecture

Students: Carl Bolofer, Eryk Christian, Dan Herhold, Elijah Kafer, Mais Karadsheh, Rachel Yoon-Meyers, Mone Smith, Shannon Sommer, and Julie Zelenock