French students experience Detroit from street level and above

The Nautilus, Fall 2003



The School of Architecture hosted 12 students and two professors from Ecole d’architecture de Paris Val de Seine, who came to Detroit for three weeks last June to explore the city. The group not only walked Detroit, they experienced it from cars, an airplane, by boat and by train. For example, they walked the entire length of the six radial avenues, from the center of downtown to the edges of the city, and they flew over the avenues and other streets on a small plane.

One might wonder why they needed such an extensive look at the city. The students, led by professors Nicola Borg-Pisani and Remi Schnebelin, came here as part of a workshop to document the city through photographs, videos and other audio and visual recording devices. The workshop was organized by Kyong Park, who has joined with the School of Architecture on many occasions and most recently served as a visiting professor of urbanism.

Like early explorations of this area, but with new technologies, this workshop allowed the students to discover their initial experience of Detroit and its metro area. The students also explored the question of "What is community?", and in doing so, collaborated with three community groups in the city.

The visit culminated in a dialogue that allowed UDM colleagues and the surrounding community to share their own ideas and dreams on the future of the city and its environs. The French students asked such questions as “How do you feel about bakeries, nature walks, urban agriculture, public spaces, bookstores, cafes, health clinics, community centers, pedestrian paths and recreational facilities? " The goal of the discussion was to engage the community in how individuals can become a vital force in determining the future, planning the city and developing relations among different communities.

The French students took notes at the discussion and will create visual representations based on the dialogue to be presented later this year.