This studio asked students to cast aside nostalgia to critically consider the scale and premise of the Main Branch of the Detroit Public Library. Students worked to rethink civic institutionality today to reconsider the library of the future, breaking down typological orthodoxies. By STACKing, layering, carving or sculpting we will organize future spatial possibilities into/through/onto the existing library framework as a new civic morphology.

The public library of today has evolved beyond its typological role as a repository of knowledge. The Detroit Public Library already engages a mission that was once the primary purview of a variety of social services. In Detroit, access to public services and resources in proximity to the city center needs protecting. However, there is intense pressure on this institution as 17 of 21 library branch face closure, further reducing access to public space in a city paradoxically littered with open space.

Through this systemic analyses of precedents, libraries but also inventive cultural institutions, students built a body of research and established a critical lens with which to view the Classical Cass Gilbert building and speculate a radical transformation of the building and site. The final projects position questions of value creation, universal access, 'expanded sustainability' and resilience to the commercial tranformation marching out from Downtown Detroit.




This project is made up of three interventions: garden follies, poche intrusions and an armature. It undermines the library as a monumental object through inhabitation- literally, in the new housing situated in the north wing, but also by new architectural languages which range in influence, style, and purpose. It positions the library as a ground for new social orders, standing as a 'subversive monument’, undermining existing orders through its remaking. In this way, the project seeks to unmake, reinterpret, and remake the logic of the existing building. It posits that the central problem of the historical building is that it has not been allowed to change.

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