FIVE FELLOWS – Young Architects Buy Detroit Home

We’re heading back to Detroit today, for another UM Taubman School project.  This one was a shot at revitalizing a dead home.  The students bought a house, more like a box, for $500, and created multiple interventions within the home.  Each one seeks to create a unique moment within the home.  Take a look!

SCHOOL: U. of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
FELLOWS: Meredith MillerThomas MoranRosalyne ShiehCatie NewellEllie Abrons
COURSE: Five Fellows – Architecture Fellows design and research work
YEAR: 2009 – 2010

“The Motor City has 33,529 vacant houses. To most of the country, that’s 33,529 reasons to wring its hands over What To Do About Detroit. To architects, it’s a gold mine.

Five research fellows from the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning transformed an abandoned house in Hamtramck (which is basically Detroit) into their very own lab rat. The recent architecture grads gave it new stairs, walls, glazing, rooms — the works. But it wasn’t some heroic attempt to build shelter for down and outs, which a lot of architecture schools are into these days. It was a pure design exercise — one aimed at rethinking the conventions of a single-family home — and it shows how much creativity you can draw from the great arsenal of Detroit’s ruins.

The fellows bought the house at a foreclosure auction for a whopping $500. It was literally a shell — no doors, no windows, no electricity, no plumbing, no stairs. There she is. What a beaut!

This is Thomas Moran’s Tables and Chairs. They’re actually meant to double as a display case and stairs:

Meredith Miller gave the building a fancy new door. You can adjust it depending on how much privacy you want. Here’s the indoor view:

Ellie Abrons manipulated basic construction materials to turn the most boring parts of a house — floors, walls, ceilings — into a work of art.

In About-Face, Rosalyne Shieh cut a huge diagonal swath through the house, inserted fabric-wrapped stairs, and topped it off with a bubble skylight. There’s a blighted property next door, but once it’s torn down, the staircase will afford pleasant new views of the neighborhood.

Catie Newell stuck almost a thousand glass tubes (which look a lot like crack pipes) in the house’s garage for her project Weatherization (top and below). According to U of M’s Web site, it “utilizes the typical mediator of glass in an unusual configuration allowing for an altered understanding of volume and exchange.” That’s architecture-speak for “It does cool things with light.”


Meredith Miller –
Thomas Moran –
Rosalyne Shieh –
Catie Newell –
Ellie Abrons –

All text and images via

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