DetroitPhoto Du Jour

Replanning Downtown Detroit – Part 8 of 8


Section “G” on the map:

William J. Johnson, Landscape Architect, of Eichstedt-Johnson
David B. Spaulding
Ulrich Weil of Weil-Cohan Associates

Scheme of ring road in realtion to surrounding area.

Study of ring road development.

In the early stages of the project, this group was chiefly interested in the effect of the Civic Center as an open space and how it should connect with the Woodward Mall. Concern was expressed for the major open spaces in the entire CBD and how this space should be organized. Since the Civic Center was already essentially planned, the group became interested in the more challenging aspect of designing open space for the entire CBD.

The very nature of open space is one of strong contrast with dense urban space, and should be controlled. Because of this quality of strong contrast, openness can be used to advantage as an element of organization for the CBD.

The group assumed that it is important for the person on the street to know with clarity where he is located in the urban scene. This depends a great deal upon his ability to take position checks with an over-all visual tie. It was felt that this open space could possibly be fitted in a lineal form throughout the CBD, much as the Grand Canal in Venice ties together a near chaos of sidewalks and building masses. A natural location for such a device seemed to be the secondary traffic route which has already been established by the City Plan Commission. Automobile traffic as well as pedestrian traffic could identify itself with such an orienting device. Thus, traffic of quite some intensity could proceed along this drive as part of the CBD traffic circulation pattern, similar to the German “ringstrasse,” but of much greater scale. Here is a chance to change grades, curve the roadways and to create an atmosphere of marvelous contrast with the urban scene even as it penetrates through it.

In the process of making this study, the group determined certain directions and limitations in order to arrive at the qualities that Detroit’s CBD should possess, as follows:

1 The human being is the scale constant, considering here the visual and emotional perception of the person as he moves through a sequence of contrasting spaces and views.

2 Inherent qualities of Detroit should be evaluated and conserved where possible, such as existing patterns of traffic movement, individual buildings, the density of the existing core of buildings.

3 Consideration should be given to the sequence and order of major open spaces, i.e., alternating the concentrations of structure and open areas in a pleasant change of pace, building up the elements of surprise, offsetting periods of intense activity and stimulus with periods of quiet atmosphere.

View of the ring road.

Mall adjacent to ring road.

Detail study of ring raod at Gratiot Avenue.

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