The PassengerMark Campbell and Stewart Dodd
‘Planning is for the world’s great cities, for Paris, London and Rome, for cities dedicated, at some level, to culture. Detroit, on the other hand, was an American city and therefore dedicated to money, and so design had given way to expediency.’ – Jeffrey Eugenides
This year Intermediate 1 will travel to Detroit, Michigan – a city so synonymous with architectural ruin that the images of its civic decay are as clichéd as they are poignant. The home of the US auto industry’s ‘Big Three’ – Ford, Chrysler and General Motors – ‘Motor City’ now relies on Federal life support with enough vacant land to accommodate Manhattan, Boston and San Francisco combined, and a population that has contracted by almost 40 per cent since 1950. If ‘America is the original version of modernity,’ as Jean Baudrillard believed, then Detroit’s collapse provides us with a vision of what the end of modernity might look like.
‘I am the passenger, I ride under glass’, Iggy Pop noted of this existential view of his hometown. ‘I look through the window light, I see the stars come out tonight, I see the city’s ripped insides, I see the dark and hollow sky, I see the winding ocean drive. And everything looks good to you and me, so see me ride.”
Following these provocations, we will examine the Detroit area in order to explore the notion of architectural obsolescence. Acting as ‘archaeologists of the immediate future’ our forensic enquiries will include found architectures, speculative possibilities and spurious research. We begin by questioning the ‘faked histories’, architectural potential and cultural appropriation of Detroit through works such as Robert Smithson’s ‘Monuments of the Passaic’ and filmic representations of dystopic urbanity like Robocop, Escape from New York, Alphaville and La Jetée. Working in defiance of conventional architectural norms, the unit will be charged with designing a real, surreal or entirely speculative architectural intervention within the remains of this once great city.
Mark Campbell has taught history and design at the AA since 2004. He has taught previously at the Cooper Union, Princeton University and Auckland University and received post graduate degrees as a Fulbright Scholar from Princeton University (MA, PhD) and undergraduate degrees from Auckland University (BA, Arch Hons). He has worked in practice in Auckland, New York and London and served as the Managing Editor of Grey Room and the Cooper Union Archive, in addition to publishing extensively. He is the Director of the ‘Paradise Lost’ AA Research Cluster.
Stewart Dodd is founding director of Satellite Architects Limited. He studied architecture at the Bartlett and worked for several architects in the UK and Europe. He has taught extensively at schools including the AA, the Bartlett and Brighton University, as well as being a visiting critic at a number of schools worldwide. He presently sits on the RIBA Validation board and is an external examiner at the Bartlett and Brighton University. Satellite has been the recipient of numerous architectural awards, most recently, the Green Apple, Gold Award for Sustainable Architecture.