Bagley Housing Project

The project is sited at a significant threshold into Mexicantown, Detroit--a border town
between the United States and Canada, and a vibrant community with a primarily Hispanic population.
Neighborhoods nearby are experiencing fast growth and development, and Mexicantown’s proximity
to downtown Detroit and the emerging Corktown neighborhoods suggest it may see growth in the near future.
Mexicantown’s demographic and geographic complexities call for a reconsideration of how
architecture can address urban life.Most important to this residential project are
two unique aspects of life in Mexicantown: transient living, and intergenerational occupancy.

Project Team:  Lauren Lahr
                             Scott Deisher
                          Rachel Hrobon

Because the site lies so close to the Canadian border, there is a high concentration of truckers that transport goods on a popular route from Mexico through the United States to Canada, with Detroit, specifically Mexicantown, acting as a primary threshold. Truckers need places of rest and sleep, but only temporarily, before beginning driving back to Mexico for another journey. Additionally, There is an strong family culture within the mexican community. The hispanic culture is known for housing multiple generations of family members under the same roof, with elders that age in place at homes with their children and grandchildren.

This project takes these two factors of life in Mexicantown (transience and intergenerational living) and leverages them as primary drivers of the architectural design. The project site is adjacent to a residential neighborhood and local grocery on the south end and the train station to the north. The building is shaped to provide a varied residential density that is not typical single-family or mixed-use high rise residential. Rather than provide one type of housing or the other, the building consists of units with varying levels of flexibility and publicity. Units can be large, five-bedroom dwellings with accessible entrances, bedrooms, and kitchens for multiple generations, or can be divided, offering completely independent one-bedroom units to generate income and provide temporary housing for the transient population. The units provide space for a family to own their own home paired with higher density living types for transient workers. This allows for a higher density residential lot that maintains the feel of a single family residential neighborhood.

The dwellings offer spatial types that vary in terms of publicity and privacy; larger units have both open, public gathering spaces (usually these occur in the kitchen, the heart of the home) and smaller, semi-private spaces for rest, contemplation, and reading. Three distinct architectural elements have been synthesized and distributed throughout the units to achieve the necessary variability in public and private space within the units and the site. Thickened walls with radiant heat provide warm, sheltered spaces that frame exterior connections through corner windows. Aediculae frame space with light and shaped ceilings, providing a delineation of space without the use of physical partitions. Level changes, however slight, separate spaces from one another, without relying on walls to separate space. Each of these elements signify the function of space between public and private . The floor, indicating public circulation space and transition into more discrete space, the corner window, indicating semi-private living space, and the aediculae, indicating private bedroom space.

Dwellings are timber-frame construction, expressed on the interior to accentuate the complexity of the nested spaces within the units. The exterior expresses the thickened concrete corner windows as a way to understand the semi-private interior condition, wood slat rainscreens are used on the elevation at both the most private and the most public spaces providing contrast to the thickened windows. At the larger, open public spaces, the rainscreen breaks down and strategically filters daylight through thinner slats and framing views where the slats are absent. The masses of each building--there are six total distributed across the site--capture exterior space between themselves, and work in tandem with the site to provide both immediate connections the neighboring spaces, and semi-private interior courts, for residents to enjoy and foster a sense of community between each buildings.



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