For generations, Detroit has advanced modern urban development with innovative design practices; the integration of the first stretch of paved concrete on Woodward Avenue, the nation’s first tri-colored traffic light, and the contribution to mass-production through innovative technology in automotive manufacturing. These evolutionary design interventions have influenced built environments throughout the world, contributing to a new way of life predicated on modern ideals of speed, efficiency, and clean, functional aesthetics. Because of this strong design legacy and international influence, Detroit was recently awarded the first UNESCO City of Design designation in the United States, joining a worldwide network of cities committed to utilizing design as a driver for sustainable urban development, social inclusion, and cultural vibrancy.

Detroit demands a high design standard for all future projects within the city's 139 square miles. To support this goal, the Detroit Design 139 exhibition puts forth ten guiding principles crafted to benefit all Detroiters:

  1. Advance design as a means to improve the quality-of-life for all people.
  2. Advance a thoughtful design process rooted in meaningful community engagement
  3. Seek creative solutions to solve long-standing urban issues.
  4. Honor context and history through contemporary design.
  5. Activate the public realm.
  6. Balance community cohesion with aesthetic diversity.
  7. Impress the value of design on all projects and all audiences -- emphasizing equity, design excellence, and inclusion.
  8. Explore new ways to live, work, and play together in the 21st century city.
  9. Celebrate Detroit's design legacy, while contributing to the city's design future.
  10. Balance function and beauty.

The Detroit Design 139 exhibition showcases relevant Detroit projects that respond to these design principles.  Collectively, these projects illustrate the future of Detroit – an urban environment populated with thoughtful projects that simultaneously honor Detroit’s design legacy while pushing the city towards becoming a leader in world-class design excellence.  Detroit shapes Design. 

project types + exhibit layout 

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Detroit Design Principles: 

East Riverfront: The Detroit East Riverfront Framework Plan establishes a bold and exciting vision for one of the City's greatest, yet underutilized, assets- The Detroit Riverfront. While the plan rationalizes some 22 million square feet of vibrant, mixed-use development over the next 30 years, the project's focus is on the immediate implementation of a series of projects that embody the following themes:

1) Reinforcing a Riverfront for all

2) Providing beautiful and safe greenway connections between neighborhoods and the riverfront 

3) Transforming East Jefferson Avenue and Joseph Campau to pedestrian and bike-friendly streets

Urban Design: 


Neighborhood Planning: 

U of M Studio: 

Mix Tape (Commercial Corridor Revitalization Strategies): 

Adaptive Re-Use: 

New Construction: