At The Commons MACC Development, a combination café-laundromat-community housing center on Detroit’s east side, it’s clear how thoughtful design can bring a neighborhood together. Kids are doing their homework with fruit snacks and a Faygo at the café counter, while residents wait for their laundry sipping coffee and munching on locally sourced baked goods.
The Commons is just one example out of more than 70 projects across Detroit’s 139 square miles that embodies inclusive design, the theme of this year’s Detroit Design 139 (DD139) exhibition, now on view at four locations across the city.
Building on a long legacy of Detroit’s design excellence, the recently opened exhibition makes it clear that Detroit is now making a name for itself as a global leader in inclusive design.
Inaugurated in 2017, the biennial exhibition’s second edition has expanded to appear at 1001 Woodward Ave. and three other neighborhood locations around Detroit, where residents and visitors alike get an up-close look at how inclusive design is helping to address longstanding urban issues. The neighborhood locations are in the Old Redford (17340 Lahser Rd.), Morningside (16451 E. Warren Ave.) and Fitzgerald/Bagley (7426 McNichols Rd.) communities.
The exhibition is the signature event for DD139 – an organization comprised of design advocates from around the city’s 139 square miles. Led by Bedrock, the City of Detroit and Design Core, DD139 organizes and hosts exhibitions, events, lectures and conversations focused on honoring the city’s design legacy while becoming a worldwide leader in the inclusive design process.
“This group came together in 2015 when Detroit became the first U.S. city to earn the designation as a UNESCO City of Design, joining 30 other cities around the world in its commitment to drive sustainable and equitable development through design,” said Melissa Dittmer, Bedrock’s Chief Design Officer.
UNESCO— the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — names City of Design honorees in recognition of the city’s design legacy and its promotion of cultural and creative development.
“Detroit has a unique opportunity to utilize inclusive design to create a more equitable and sustainable future for our city and cities around the world,” Dittmer added. “By prioritizing diverse experiences, accessible opportunities and collaborative relationships, Detroit will show how inclusive design develops communities that work for everyone.”
Each project was selected through a collaborative process with a jury of experts, the DD139 curation team and a diverse advisory committee comprising community advocacy groups, developers, educators and other nonprofits.
Olga Stella, Executive Director of Design Core Detroit and founding partner of Detroit Design 139, said that design’s influence on a city is much more than just architecture and buildings.
“We need recognition programs for those built projects, education programs to nurture future leaders, community gathering places for the exchange of ideas, and everything in between. Those ideas are flourishing in Detroit and we hope to make that obvious with this exhibition,” Stella said.
Aside from the physical exhibition, DD139 is hosting more than 30 free, public events throughout the month at the four locations, from panel discussions and lectures to social parties, kid-friendly workshops and tours.
“When viewed individually, each of these projects represents a snapshot of the inclusive design work completed daily in our communities to make life better for the people around us,” Dittmer said.
“When viewed as a collection, the DD139 exhibition provides a forward-thinking toolkit for designers, planners, businesses, officials, and residents to collaboratively work toward an Inclusive Futures for everyone.”
Detroit Design 139 runs now through Sept. 30. For a full list of events and hours of operation at each of the four locations, visit DetroitDesign139.com.