Detroit, USA

Avis + Elsmere

‘Inside Southwest Detroit’ is a collection of initiatives that promote youth and community development.
Photo: Erik Paul Howard

One of its flagship initiatives, “The Alley Project,” transformed a Southwest Detroit neighborhood alley and surrounding vacant lots into a street art gallery, which connects neighbors and young people to each other as well as to community assets. Avis + Elsmere is the first year-round home for Inside Southwest Detroit programs, and it reflects a community vision in its planning, execution, and everyday use.

The project began with a participatory process that engaged key stakeholders – graffiti artists, skateboarders, kids, grandparents, and other neighbors – in project planning and design decision-making, resulting in a community space that responds to local culture, needs, and opportunities. A series of community workshops, focus groups, and neighborhood celebrations gave people the agency and opportunity to guide the design of the construction. The spaces and materials came directly from the collaborative design process and speak to the neighborhood’s identity and vibrancy. The design challenge was to create a flexible, accessible, and authentic space that reflected the values of the community.

Ceara O’Leary
Co-Executive Director at Detroit Collaborative Design Center
Partner: Et al. collaborative and Inside Southwest Detroit
“We value diverse expertise and local knowledge throughout design development and believe that communities should lead decision making that impacts their neighborhood spaces. In these spaces, communities share values, stories and activities that contribute to the life, culture and character of Detroit’s neighborhoods. The design of these common spaces should celebrate this character.”

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