UDM School of Architecture

Call For Entries, Dichotomy

October 19, 2012 · No Comments

The University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture is holding a call for entries for the 19th edition of Dichotomy.

Dichotomy, a student published journal, strives to be a critical link between UDM students and the discourses on design, architecture, urbanism, and community development. Like the institution, Dichotomy focuses on social justice and critical thought concerning intellectual, spiritual, ethical, and social development both in and outside of Detroit. The aim of Dichotomy is to disseminate these relevant investigations conducted by students, faculty, and professionals.

The theme of Dichotomy 19 is UGLY. Entries can explore the concept of ugliness as applied to design, architecture, and urban planning, and the relationship between the ugly and our accepted cultural aesthetics.

Abstracts should be approximately 300 words with three images in PDF format, sent to dichotomyudm@gmail.com.

Entries may be projects, scholarly articles, photo essays, or interviews. Submission deadline is December 1, 2012.

View previous issues at http://research.udmercy.edu/find/special_collections/digital/dichotomy/.ugfront

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Why did you choose Detroit?

April 2, 2012 · 50 Comments

“Why did you choose Detroit?” That is a question that is asked of me and everyone who lives and goes to school here incessantly. This weekend we were barraged with this question as Detroit was the host of the AIAS Midwest Quad Conference with students and educators from around the Midwest and beyond coming to our city. My response to them, “Why wouldn’t you?”

Why wouldn’t you choose Detroit? Detroit is an amazing landscape of culture, diversity, and people. Our history is in every history book and the techniques we developed here are used worldwide. Our history was great, but our future will be greater. Here in Detroit we have the opportunity to become a city like none other. We have the opportunity to redefine what a city landscape can hold and look like. Detroit can be the model for Urban Revitalization in a way no one has ever done or thought of before.

I want to be part of that. I want to be part of a city that says, “I don’t care what the rest of the world thinks of me. I am going to continue on, forward, and up, no matter how you beat me down.” I want to be part of possibly the largest urban revitalization project ever done with the unearthing of Bloody Run Creek. I want to be part of this growing optimism that finds its way into every soul in within the city.

Here in the D I can do something great, something that matters, something for the good of many. That is why I choose Detroit because together, we are Detroit, and that is what we do.



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April 2, 2012 · No Comments

The titan men’s basketball team this past month won the horizon league in great fashion. Being in that arena with the atmosphere at that game was undeniably unforgettable. This atmosphere was created by having the sporting event in the arena but would not have happened without the human component. Being an architecture student I think I sometimes forget how important the human factor is in creating an environment.

We as architects design spaces certain ways to create certain atmospheres about a space; however, this space does not truly become that atmosphere until people experience the space and develop that atmosphere through their behavior and actions. Different aged people also will create a different view of a space as well. For example, little children running around a lavish banquet hall at a wedding see the space as a new playground, unlike the adults who will treat the space totally different.

The human element in a space is an incalculable and unpredictable part of creating an environment. It is by, however, the most important component in creating one. The human factor created the atmosphere at the arena in Valparaiso and without it the win by the team would not have been as special as it was.

-Spencer J.

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Chicago Trip

March 21, 2012 · 3 Comments

One thing that stood out in my mind when we got to Chicago was the use of public space. As a student, the ideas for projects are never actually put into a real world context; it’s all just conceptual, so the use of these intended spaces are never realized. Previous to the Chicago trip, I had always designed public space without intentions of people actually using it, it was filler for a stronger project; I didn’t realize how beneficial public space can be.  The Chicago trip enlightened me, as a second year student, to realized all the potential that a public space has, whether that is the intention of the space or not.

Picasso Statue

Jen Masengrab of the Chicago Architectural Foundation gave us an excellent tour of the Chicago area, highlighting on Federal, Chase and Daley Plazas. In the Daley Plaza there is a large statue made by Pablo Picasso that activated the space with kids playing and people talking, standing, and meeting around it. I was stunned when Jen told us that when the statue was revealed to the city of Chicago every Chicagoan was appalled by it. Standing in Daley Plaza it was clear that the statue dominated the space in a positive way and created a high level of interaction among the community, so much so that a group of students headed back to the statue for some fun after our tours were over.

Not only did it attract children, but apparently a bunch of college students as well

Pure Bliss

On the train ride home from Chicago we reflected on the most memorable parts of the trip and the Picasso Statue was high on everyone’s list. This trip has proven the importance of public space and I have found humor in the idea that a public space that was once considered “appalling” can turn into a monumental statue for the city that leaves a lasting impact on those who visit it.

Julia Schlau


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Abroad in Europe

March 19, 2012 · No Comments

If you haven’t checked out my profile, I am a third year architecture student traveling abroad with 11 other UDM students in Warsaw, Poland.  I am living in a dorm with Polish students from the Politechnika Warsawska located smack dab in the city. For me it is really interesting to be living in a European city because everything is so old! In Warsaw especially you can see the character of each historical era in the buildings, planning, and culture. Its fun to guess the time period in which the buildings were built. Poland is located in the center of Europe so it is fairly easy to get around. I am traveling to Cracow, Berlin, and Spain in the upcoming weeks. However there is a lot to see here in Warsaw! There are all kinds of museums and art exhibitions, there are restaurants of all flavors, the night life is bopping,  and the architecture is diverse. Poland has some of the largest castles in Europe! Not only do you get to see new and exciting things but you get to meet some great people. 12 Polish students travel to America in the fall. We get to take classes with them and they show us around Warsaw. Right now the classes I am taking are watercolor, hand drawing, studio, urban planning, polish language, and history of polish architecture.

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Pawel Trebach on Following Urban Structure

November 18, 2011 · No Comments

Pawel Trebach demonstrated how the formal design of a building ties in with the fabric of buildings, roads, parks, and the views around it. Reducing the decisions into simple diagrams made it easy to follow his lecture. As I was sitting and listening closely to him speak in the noisy room I began to think about some things.

Even though it was difficult to make out his words sometimes, the diagrams spoke almost entirely by themselves. Speaking as a student I feel the actual process of design is lost oftentimes at this stage of communication- the architect and his building dancing only in his head. Why do we (as designers) take the communication of the design to so many places other than the minds of the listener? Where does it go? We use stylized abstractions such as renderings, plans, and sections to tell about how we see the building, but I feel like it is so often lost. Somewhere else.

It feels so difficult to take a process that took such a long time (perhaps too long) and reduce it to simple lines and shapes. This lecture was a good reminder for me about the process of distilling that happens between design and communication. I once heard someone say something about how the poet can easily make an entire room feel uncomfortable if he or she said what was really meant, but the same idea could be said in simple terms to communicate a beauty they would have otherwise not known.

I learned a lot from Pawel while I was in Poland about this process of communication. Sometimes it was difficult because between the thick, red, unexpressive lines about public domains and green spaces I would imagine people laying on the grass or hearing the fountains. But without that thick red line there will be no experience, the words that could have brought a beauty, brought discomfort instead.

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Douglas Farr at Lawrence Tech.

November 7, 2011 · No Comments

Douglas Farr, a proud “Detroit-boy” and UofM grad spoke at Lawrence Technical University on last Thursday.  He discussed where innovation in green building is headed, but also where it still has a lot of area to make up. Aside from a few cracks about policy and jargon he went on to say that sustainability is not just about light bulbs and bio-swales… the scale is much larger. Sustainability is about more than building performance and reusing materials, it considers transit oriented development and “perfecting every increment of the city.” In other words looking at every scale, not just the lot or the LEED plaque.

A particular question he brought up struck me: it was about designing for a “lifestyle”that actually changes the conduct of the user. One case study he mentioned (out of his book) revealed that almost 40% of the footprint was a product of the behavior of the occupants, the other 60% was due to the design of the building. So its not all about putting in new light bulbs and driving small cars. It goes back to good design.

He mentioned envisioning certain projects being in Detroit. It makes me wonder what sustainability in Detroit really looks like. Is it about butterfly roofs and bioswales? Could the design for a sustainable lifestyle create a culture unique to Detroit?

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The End is Near

May 16, 2011 · No Comments

After our studio final review on Thursday and our Urban Planning final done this afternoon the work load is changing dramatically, almost as rapidly as Warsaw is transforming as the weather is changing. I have never felt a city change so much. The worn down patches of grass have bloomed and become delightfully overgrown, the sticks that are now trees have full crowns, and there is a lightness in the air that I know is just from the weather.

Over the next two weeks we will be preparing for our exhibition on the 26th. Rumor has it that it is going to be a good one, a hunch on my part seconds that. We will be working on our boards, drawing pictures, and enjoying some of the beautiful weather we have had lately in the mean time.

I am looking forward to hanging out with some of the people I have really become close to being over here since February, I will be sad to be leaving them when June rolls around. If life is full of seasons this one has gone by fast, I feel I have been here so long. It is when I think about Warsaw as home that it feels so short and my friends feel so near.

The list of priorities, like the grass on the other side, is changing from project developments and tests to “How am I going to carry all of this when I travel back?” I daresay (I realize) I am blessed to have these worries.

I can hear some of the parks that I have ridden by so many times calling me into them, and I am also feeling ambitious to check out a couple of the many museums that Warsaw has to offer.


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Faithful 523.

May 13, 2011 · No Comments

The buses that roar by in Warsaw become a part of the background noise, much like the lull of a sunny train ride as the trees skim light past your eyes and travel like flickers over your forehead and far away. It would be easy to miss them and because they are so common, and it would be even easier to take for granted their operation. It is nice to have a bus driver that is employed to take me places. I wonder what kinds of things he sees, what he thinks about.

There is one particularly well aged bus that I rode one night that I felt a special connection to. It had the heart of the little engine that could but the body of just any old bus. Compared to all of the other buses it was rather noisy and quite jerky in the way it navigated the streets of Warsaw. Others might call it obnoxious but I think its fun being in a bus that you don’t have to be gentle to. It created an entire atmosphere that was difficult to ignore. In other busses their universalized sleek quiet movements allow you to go into your mind and away from everything. Inside of this bus there was an orchestra of noises as the heavy vibrations of the old diesel engine shook the glass, and the stiff suspension jerked around corners and over tram tracks. I think its timing however went beyond the sheer age and character that I saw in it that night.

Ever since that moment I have ridden in this bus an unusual number of times. Unusual to the point to where it would be easy to call it coincidence. There is a monster of a transportation system, but it seems like one number in particular that I have developed a connection to. The first couple of times I thought it was my class timing. It began to change when even when I walked to the bus stop at 9:35pm after talking a bit longer to my friends than I expected, and helping take out the trash.

Sauntering up to the bus stop while running a design through my head, thinking about doing laundry, or the conversation I just had, I would be interrupted by the sharp squeaking and the loud hydraulic release of its breaks. There are different buses that ride up on this same scheduled number mind you, but none of them have been new, quiet, smooth, or even comfortable but I have thoroughly enjoyed my encounter with this bus line that, let’s just say, has been on my schedule. Every time I see the red, faded numbers through the curved windshield painted with the hazy Warsaw glare I have a moment where I just smile to my self.

Just yesterday, long after I had noticed this odd and strangely enjoyable pattern. I remember really thinking “Man, wouldn’t it would be great if I would be able to take my bus to school in order to go to my final critique?” The time where people talk about the design that had been maturing in my mind for the past 3 months, the project I stayed up all night finishing. After doing a u-turn (when I realized that I could catch it right across the street instead of all the way down past Grojeca street) I arrived at the bus stop, still wondering. Five minutes later the bus came. I remember watching as my feet found their footing on each the tall steps on board. I felt half-drunk from lack of sleep and the glare of sun in my eyes but inside I felt very calm and peaceful, and just recently quite delighted. I remember smiling.

Maybe I did say it, but amidst the hot, swaying, ethereal atmosphere the beautiful orchestra of gunning engine and rattling windows played. I made it to school just on time yesterday. “Good, old, Faithful 523.”

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Spring Break and Routines Pt.2

May 10, 2011 · No Comments

By: Ethan Sims

I mentioned that our projects are due soon, this means the stress level is a bit higher than usual. But I want to talk for a little bit about my spring break experience over the past couple of weeks.

During our break we were given homework (Awww man! Yep, just like that little kid inside of us all… or maybe its just me). I profited a lot from it, and I would like to share what I learned.

Before this assignment was given, I learned that there is always something you can complain about, and maybe that is just because my life is forged by not seeking what I want all the time. But it might also be a product of the fact that I try to not be governed by ideas but instead try to learn from every idea around me. If humans are like sponges and filters, the good stuff as well as the bad stuff has to go somewhere. I like the good stuff to stay. That was a long way of saying that I took this wisdom and chose to look at this assignment like and opportunity to learn.

We were given guidelines of details and themes to look out for as we became “consumers of architecture”- a term I am enjoying more and more but cannot take credit for. I heard the term from my professor Tadd, but I learned what it meant over spring break. I am sure I will continue to learn about it as I live a life that loves space and beautiful things.

One example in particular made me truly feel different, like I was supposed to be inside a place. It was with the National Art Gallery in Dublin, Ireland. In a nutshell  I saw the new addition to be about the movement of planes and void spaces. But when I entered it I felt like I entered an alien spaceship. This is because I can only compare how I felt to where I had been. Not only did I feel entirely different, I had a rather mixed emotion of sadness. Once again (and this does not happen to me very often) I felt like I was meant to be in this building. It simply felt good. I say sadness because I asked myself “Shouldn’t every building I go into be like this?” I realized how very few buildings I have been in that actually made me feel good being in them, not just thinking about when I will be leaving them. From the smallest of details like the way the railing attached to the wall, to the entire entrance into the gallery rooms I found myself in an architectural space equivalent to a biologist in an unexplored jungle. I was supposed to touch the door handle and take some paint and leave some of my palm, on the stairs I was supposed to take some concrete and leave some dirt and rubber. I was fascinated with its elegance and left, pushing the warm door handle and I remember feeling inspired as the horns and engines of metro Dublin greeted me as if to say “Welcome back to earth.” Thanks, I thought. I remember feeling ready to move on and use what I learned.

By the time I was done traveling I had seen many places. That simple reminder that the assignment served was for me enough to change my entire experience while traveling. The reminder was this: to look at the details that feel good, to see what I do like and find out why. Finally, let myself be inspired. Like eating, I spit out the tough parts I can’t eat, and next time I will remember the parts I didn’t like to eat before I cook a dish of my own.

It almost goes back to the pedagogy of learning from buildings in a world where books, lectures, and AutoCAD are thought to be an architectural education. Look [feel, smell, listen, be] around- consume it. Those were the fun parts of childhood, remember?

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