Architects imagine collective rebuilding of Detroit through a design-build workshop

There are nearly 7,000 structures undergoing a shared process of repair in the city of Detroit. This number reflects the amount of previously abandoned houses people have purchased from the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA) and are currently renovating into livable homes under the guidelines of the DLBA’s compliance program. Within this milieu of construction, Detroiters have created incredible formal and informal networks to support a collective ethos of reuse, such as DIY YouTube channels, material salvage centers, and online Facebook resource groups totalling thousands of members.Inspired by this ethos, we formed Detroit Reuse Collective (DRC) to contribute to this movement. Our work at 1+1+ Architects and EXTENTS focuses on using architecture and digital media to build relationships as opposed to formulating our offices’ work as a business exchange between experts and clients. Our collaboration through DRC furthers this work by supporting residents rebuilding their DLBA homes, an exciting yet daunting process that requires adherence to a compliance schedule. DRC is a workshop-incubator that shepherds research and empirical knowledge to support the community in ways similar to what we observed already happening across Detroit. In contrast to singular top-down solutions, we are seeking collective agency in collaboration with innumerable individual actors who are working to improve the city’s material condition from the ground up. As a first instance of this effort, Detroit Reuse Collective initiated Build a Chair = Reframe a House, a workshop designed for Detroit residents renovating DLBA houses.

The HOUSE-CHAIR workshop taught participants basic American home framing and finishing skills through its assembly. (Courtesy Detroit Reuse Collective)