design competition 2018

Design Center in a Box – Detroit Design Build

Submission: June 24, 2018
Registration: June 24, 2018
Language: English
Location: Detroit, USA
Prizes: Please see details below
Type: Open


The City of Detroit invites emerging designers, born or raised in, or professionally or academically connected to Michigan, to submit concepts for an installation that, when inserted into an existing building, would transform the vacant commercial storefront into an engaging community space, adaptable to multiple scales of programming and use. 

Detroit’s commercial corridors are dominated by vacant storefronts and empty lots, including those adjacent to the strongest, most populated residential neighborhoods. New hope is on the horizon with a City-led public/private partnership initiative intended to expand investment in the public realm, encourage pedestrians, and support existing businesses. Nevertheless, in an uncertain market, and with poor building condition and limited cash flow, many property owners still struggle to re-vitalize their vacant buildings.

Imagine if these spaces could be activated first as community storefronts where residents could exchange ideas and be informed about the design and planning happening in their neighborhood? What if these community storefronts could provide space for neighborhood organizations, small businesses and local entrepreneurs to temporarily attract residents in Detroit’s neighborhood commercial corridors? How might this look?

Design Center in a Box is a design-build competition. Through the process, winning teams will have demonstrated an ability and commitment to fabricate and install their proposed design within a vacant commercial storefront.  When forming teams, applicants should consider the criteria on which the jury will evaluate submissions.  Emerging design practices wishing to pivot toward community design, young architects looking to form new collaborations, or artists seeking to engage public conversation are among those encouraged to apply.


The Design Center in a Box competition occurs in three stages: 1) an initial open call for participants; 2) a site visit and design development phase for finalists culminating in a public presentations to jurors and selection of 2 winning designs; 3) a fabrication and installation period during which winning designs will activate two vacant storefronts.

In Stage 1, each finalist team selected will receive a $2,500 finalist stipend intended to support the team in progressing through Stage 2 of the competition.

In Stage 2, Following a presentation event for finalist teams, the design jury will select 2 winning teams to receive $40,000 each for detailing, fabrication and installation of their design in a confirmed site location.


Marlon Blackwell, FAIA – Principal Marlon Blackwell Architects

Lawrence Scarpa, FAIA – Partner, Brooks + Scarpa

James Singleton – Architect, IFF

Georgeen Theodore – Partner, Interboro


Design Center in a Box is a collaboration between the City of Detroit Planning & Development Department and the Detroit Collaborative Design Center at University of Detroit Mercy, with support from partnering organizations.  It is funded by the Knight Foundationthrough the Knight Cities Challenge.

Go to the competition’s website