This fall, Lawrence Technological University’s College of Architecture and Design will open its Detroit Center for Design and Technology (DCDT) on Woodward Avenue at the corner of Willis. It will be the anchor tenant for the building developed by Midtown Detroit Inc.
The opening of the new center in the heart of Detroit – in a midtown district that is experiencing a dramatic rebirth – will bring LTU’s Detroit-based academic programs together under one roof and provide a venue for new and expanded programs.
“We feel there is a dramatic cultural shift taking place that will support the major commitment LTU is making to the revitalization of Detroit,” said Amy Deines, executive director of the DCDT and interim dean of LTU’s College of Architecture and Design. “Our goal is to actively engage the civic and social awareness of our students and give them opportunities to become involved in projects that will have a positive impact on the city and its residents.”
LTU has been active in Detroit for decades and the DCDT will increase the university’s impact on the city as well as its ability to use it as a vital teaching opportunity. A hands-on course in urban design has been taught in Detroit by LTU Professor Joongsub Kim since 1999 and was based in the New Center for many years. More recently, LTU’s College of Architecture and Design added two additional Detroit-based design courses and operated an architecture and design exhibit space on Woodward Avenue. LTU has also initiated outreach programs intended to teach the STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics), as well as design, to elementary and high school students in the region.
By bringing several of the College of Architecture and Design’s urban programs together, LTU’s Detroit Center for Design and Technology will provide:
• An urban setting for university courses in urban design, architecture, graphic design and industrial design.
• A permanent exhibition space for the presentation of contemporary ideas in architecture and design.
• A new design incubator that will help entrepreneurs turn their design-based ideas into new businesses.
• Support for LTU’s outreach to STEAM-oriented schools in the region.
• A common meeting place for LTU students and other DCDT tenants involved in architecture, design, engineering and development.
Deines estimates that close to 100 LTU students soon will be taking classes at DCDT on a weekly basis and she is interested to see how they will take advantage of the opportunity to cross paths with the center’s other tenants – Invest Detroit, AIA Michigan, AIA Detroit, SME, the Urban Land Institute of Detroit, and the local chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects.
“It is unique for an architecture and design school to have such a strong physical connection with professional associations and firms,” Deines said. “We forged these relationships to bring future architects into contact with like-minded professional people. We can’t anticipate all the connections that will be made, but we expect it to be an enriching educational experience for our students.”
LTU’s DCDT will also enhance the academic programming that faculty members provide to the elementary and high school students. At the Sampson Webber Leadership Academy, LTU is providing instruction in STEAM subjects to middle school students and plans are underway to include younger students. At Denby High School, pre-architecture courses are taught by LTU faculty members, providing math and art credits for high school students. The goal of both programs is to prepare students for the big academic jump to college.
Beginning in early 2016, LTU’s DCDT Design Incubator will provide programs and services to help creative businesses grow in Detroit. It will leverage the DCDT’s connections with the midtown community and other Detroit neighborhoods to help those businesses grow and thrive. It will offer access to legal advice, marketing resources, and mentorship for business start-ups. LTU’s Design Incubator will also launch a fellowship program to encourage recent college graduates to start businesses and take up residence in Detroit.
The focus of the DCDT exhibition space will be to broaden the visual experience of the LTU community and people of Detroit. The gallery will host exhibitions by students, faculty, and the community, and will show the work of nationally and internationally recognized professionals. “Ultimately,” said LTU Assistant Professor Deirdre Hennebury, “our goal is to foster learning and collaboration, and to encourage dialog about society and our diverse cultural landscape.”
LTU’s new center will increase the impact of urban design courses, exemplified by the Detroit Studio led by LTU Professor Kim. He provides students with an enriched educational experience through architectural, urban design and local development projects, pursued with community groups in need of design ideas. In keeping with LTU’s “theory and practice” motto, these students learn about urban design by practicing it in a real-world setting in Detroit or a nearby suburb. In the process, the students provide valuable information and proposals to neighborhood groups, municipalities and the business community.
“Through the Detroit Studio our students can help stimulate urban economic development and propose possible solutions to critical urban problems,” Kim said. “Our students often develop mutually beneficial relationships with community stakeholders and citizens.”
Gjergji Prendi, LTU student government president, is currently taking the DetroitShop design studio that is based in a temporary space downtown until the DCDT opens. He values the practical experiences and tangible connection to Detroit’s urban environment that the course provides, and looks forward to building relationships with the other tenants in the DCDT building.
“DCDT is not only a physical space that connects us with Detroit, but it is also provides an intangible opportunity that I think every LTU student needs to grasp,” Prendi said.