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Vis-à-vis with Brennan Buck: The Detroit Super Division
FreelandBuck is an architectural design practice based in New York and Los Angeles affiliated with Yale and Woodbury Universities. In order to develop a new conceptual framework, David Freeland and Brennan Buck investigate complex configurations of natural and infrastructural systems and examine interactions with deep understanding of more than architecture. The project Detroit Super Division is a research that explores Detroit's urban conditions and attempts to understand the urban mutations in order to create a 'strategy of ‘Superdivision’ rather than subdivision, scaling up occupied territory and repurposing unused infrastructure.' We have spoken to Brennan Buck, Principal at FreelandBuck in New York and a Critic at the Yale School of Architecture, to find out more about this stunning new type of organizational structure. The information below is written by David Freeland and Brennan Buck.
Aerial field image over Kansas/ Image: FreelandBuck
In 1785 the vast, ‘vacant’ territory of the American west was mapped and made habitable through the division of land into 6 mile square townships: the Jeffersonian Grid. Our proposal to address the stunning vacancy in Detroit’s urban center takes inspiration from this rural subdivision by inverting it; redefining territories to scale-up perceived property boundaries.
Traces of infrastructural shortcuts in depopulated areas of Detroit/ Image: FreelandBuck
A once densely populated city of subdivided parcels, Detroit has endured years of housing foreclosures and demolitions to become a post-urban landscape of isolated lots surrounded by vacant territory. The impossibility of infill or new infrastructure calls for a strategy of ‘Superdivision’ rather than subdivision, scaling up occupied territory and repurposing unused infrastructure. Given that an infrastructure built for over 1.5 million will soon serve less than half that many, the project proposes a strategy of re-territorialization rather than construction.
The hedgerow, as a technique of rural landscape division may be able to stave off the city’s urban decay by defining new, super-scaled, and occupied territories. We propose an algorithmic and interactive tree planting in publicly owned parcels to form both a connective network of trails and a set of preliminary boundaries, enlarging the existing pattern of property ownership to suit the collapsing population.
Hedgerow growth over 50 year period
Each year, in addition to demolishing vacant houses, the city would plant a series of hedgerows through the abandoned lots it now owns. Those hedgerows would be planned algorithmically rather than master-planned, allowing the network to adapt to changing conditions. As an algorithm, the proposal is both geometric and social, involving homeowners, banks, local government and emerging rural populations: farmers, fauna and wildlife. Based on built year-by-year patterns of building demolition, population density, and neighborhood interest in participating, the program pinpoints an annual set of hedgerows to be planted. Nearby parcels can then be rededicated for community gardens, commercial agriculture or successional forest.
Initially a set of ecological nodes, the hedgerows would eventually grow into an interconnected network collecting the remaining houses into a set of distinct, vital neighborhoods.
Rather than resisting the city’s continuing depopulation over the next several decades, the superdivision strategy facilitates the transition to a more rural pattern of land use. It channels and manages the process of depopulation to avoid the post-urban condition of vacancy, eventually stabilizing home ownership into an archipelagos of dense neighborhoods surrounded by farmed and forested land.
See more projects by FreelandBuck HERE.