Project description by jury
The aim of this design proposal is to convert a brownfield block in the Beltline Industrial District of Detroit into a sustainable and productive community. It implements a new construction and economic system based on the recovery of a wealth of materials from the abandoned and deconstructed fabrics of the city and this once-thriving industrial precinct. The project includes the construction of housing, workspaces, parking areas, community gardens and orchards. To reduce fossil fuel energy consumption, the buildings are integrated with green technologies (solar and battery systems and geothermal HVAC) while rain collectors enable the re-use of water for on-site food production. Collaboration with local partners for the (re)construction of Bellevue Block will create new green jobs and make people of the community main actors of this transformation process.
In his 2000 essay, Isis Brook asks an important question: “Can spirit of place be a guide to ethical building?” It is through the search for a reconnection with the genius loci, the identity and sense of a place, that the Bellevue Block project pursues an ambitious triple bottom line of social, environmental, and economic equity. The Holcim Awards jury North America applauded the principled objective of restoring a sense of community, that had become fragmented over the last century, through a meticulous upcycling operation of its assets. The re-use of existing materials from dismantled buildings of the past century makes the project not only very respectful of the environment but also economically sustainable.
The jury admired the ability of the project to preserve the historical context of the site while rebuilding a sense of belonging and inclusiveness for the local people. It was also noted that despite the scale of the design being limited to one city block, the project longs for an urban dimension. The jury encourages refining the design to be more aesthetically compelling, but unanimously agreed on the overall merit of the proposal and its goals.See more
As a Main category prize winner in the regional Holcim Awards 2020, (Re)constructed Block in Michigan, USA automatically qualified as a finalist in the Global Holcim Awards 2021.
This project aims to transform an abandoned historic industrial site into a vital live-work environment. Local recycled materials will be used. The old warehouse is being adapted to house exhibitions, vocational training, and shared offices. Recycled materials are incorporated. Old shipping containers are being adapted to create offices on the site. “We want to demonstrate the value of natural resources and how to use things that were left behind as the factories came down,” tells prizewinner Diane Van Buren Zachary, of Zachary and Associates, Detroit, USA. The jury applauded the principled objective of restoring a sense of community through meticulous upcycling of its assets. The reuse of existing materials from dismantled buildings makes the project very respectful of the environment and economically sustainable.Read more »
Demonstrate inherent value of natural resources and remnant materials to rebuild Detroit
The unfortunate legacy of Detroit as the city that built the 20th century model for capitalism through the automotive industry resulted in a collapsed economy and vast abandonment of factories, warehouses, and neighborhoods over 140 sq miles of the city. This project seeks to demonstrate the value of vacant land and abandoned materials to create a new economy that will heal damage from 20th century uses by reversing the need for more materials, fossil fuels and infrastructure by utilizing materials that are on site, repurposing land, recycling area resources, diverting rain water and generating power to activate a greenfield vs. brownfield site. The scale of the project is limited to one city block, but the impact can be duplicated over hundreds of Detroit blocks.
Respecting the history of place and rebuilding community with local extant materials
Preserving the history of the site includes restoring the sense of community that was lost to industry along the former Beltline rail line that transformed the district by 1920. This transition to heavy industry was subsequently lost and only vacant land and a scattering of houses and warehouses remain today. To respect that history (which is commonly buried underground), the project seeks to rebuild following a triple bottom line of social, environmental and economic equity to return the area to a working neighborhood without displacing current residents and includes preserving equity for the local workforce, creating new green jobs and valuable open space that includes food gardens and recreation space utilizing materials from the area preventing losing history to the landfill.
Creating wealth from waste, energy and self-sufficiency from local resources and knowledge
Most critical to the project is the ability to work with community partners Architectural Salvage Warehouse Detroit (ASWD), Green Living Science, D2Solar, Detroit Future City and Keep Growing Detroit who together represent the expertise in recycled materials, solar energy and water drainage retention that allows the vision to rebuild from the existing materials on site, produce energy and retain water that eliminates waste and create new wealth for jobs in the construction, energy and food production fields. ASWD is the major contractor for deconstruction in Detroit and is the major tenant on-site with expertise in materials reuse. Savings in fossil fuel consumption with a 150 kW solar installation will go off-grid and water drainage fees will disappear into beneficial ponds and gardens.See more
The masterplan for the site requires careful consideration of all materials, energy systems and future impacts of carbon emissions due to products, services and travel associated with the Bellevue Block:
A sustainable and productive urban district rises from its ashes and creates circular material flows.
Author comment by Diane Van Buren Zachary, Planner at Zachary & Associates, Detroit, MI, USA on Reconstructed Block in …
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