September 21 to 25 marks the sixth annual iteration of Detroit’s “citywide celebration of creativity,” but this year is particularly unique: in December, Detroit was the first U.S. city to receive UNESCO City of Design designation, joining the ranks of Helsinki, Beijing, Montreal and others.
For its first festival as part of the Creative Cities Network, Detroit is taking on an especially complex theme: its future. We’re excited to see how design is shaping the Motor City with these not-to-be-missed events.
1 Detroit City of Design Summit
To get the conversation going, a design summit is bringing together luminaries from around the globe to discuss the role of design in building great cities. Speakers include Sylvie Champeau from Montreal’s Bureau du Design; Karl Stocker of the FH Joanneum university of applied sciences in Graz; and Andrew Blauvelt, director of the Cranbrook Art Museum; as well as local designers, architects, entrepreneurs and community leaders bringing their views on sustainability, innovation, equity, resilience and adaptation.
2 Sean Ahlquist’s sensory architecture
The University of Michigan assistant professor’s ongoing research into technology-embedded multi-sensory environments is intended to help children with autism (including Ahlquist’s seven year-old daughter, Ara). His “sensory playscapes,” on display at the LTU Detroit Center for Design + Technology, bring together kinesiology, music, psychiatry, design and other fields into a series of highly interactive environments that develop motor control and social interaction.
3 Eastern Market After Dark
Here’s a chance to explore one of the oldest public markets in the country – not to mention see works by 30-plus studios and galleries. The various sheds will also be home to interactive installations and exhibits, Last year, for example, a series of sofas were spray painted and auctioned off to benefit a local charity, while this year Alex Schweder will be installing The Hotel Rehearsal, an inflatable hotel room that sits on a scissor lift, allowing users to see what a hotel room would feel like in various settings (and at varying heights) of empty parking lots.
4 Gary Simmons’ site-specific installation
The American artist makes his Detroit debut with an immersive installation on Broadway Street: a series of walls covered in homemade music posters. The resulting environment explores the artist’s own relationship to music as well as the city’s expansive cultural history, not to mention the idea of postering as a “medium for cultural dissemination.” The event was commissioned by Culture Lab Detroit and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD).
5 Light Up Livernois
This event began in 2013 as a way to show the city what a vibrant Livernois Avenue could look like: abandoned storefronts were transformed into cafes and pop-up shops, and installations and music filled the streets. Three years later, the event is still going strong on the transforming thoroughfare with a series of events and performances designed to drive the neighbourhood’s economic future.
For more information and the full schedule of events, visit detroitdesignfestival.com