We envision the cultural center as a place to explore new pathways for digital expression, storytelling, and inclusion.
rootoftwo is leading the strategy work to produce a set of principles, a long-term vision, short-term recommendations, and a flexible implementation framework for place-based technology as part of this 83-acre cultural center. We are engaging with the CCPI Steering Committee, twelve stakeholder institutions, residents, visitors, artists, and others to ensure our work is deeply rooted in Detroit’s art and culture.
Digital transformation is the process and outcome of using digital technology to evolve how institutions fulfill their missions and meet the needs of their visitors and stakeholders. Our role in this process is to help the twelve anchor cultural institutions (Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History; College for Creative Studies; Detroit Historical Museum; Detroit Institute of Arts; Detroit Public Library; Hellenic Museum of Michigan; International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit; Midtown Detroit, Inc.; Michigan Science Center; The Scarab Club; University of Michigan; and Wayne State University) to develop digital capacity, infrastructure and compelling use cases for place-based technology within the Detroit Cultural Center.
We aim to accomplish this through three digital means: infrastructure, capacity-building, and new visitor experiences. In partnership with Wayne State University, we will introduce Wi-Fi as an outdoor public amenity across the entire cultural campus. As a pilot project, we will deploy pop-up urban screens tied to institutional programming to consider the future placement of permanent screens. We are also running a series of workshops focused on the creation of new digital experiences that will be accompanied by small grants to support the institutions to test ideas. In addition to the programs developed from the workshops, the Dlectricity festival will also showcase the value of the technology.
Our goal is to increase connectivity by creating accessible and reliable public Wi-Fi for audiences and the public throughout the outdoor spaces of the Cultural Center, to encourage and support experimentation that will lead to new digital programming by the institutions, incentivize institutions to collaborate on district-wide projects, and allow the institutions to define, collect and share district level data on visitorship, as well as develop governance models like a data trust to determine what data is collected, stored and shared.
In order to understand the challenges facing the twelve anchor cultural institutions we conducted interviews and site visits with all of them.
We also conducted a digital capacities survey of the twelve institutions to understand their needs, opportunities, desires and limitations. We undertook a field scan and literature review that identifies and defines the necessary technologies, infrastructure, strategies, measurable outcomes, and potential downstream partners that will ensure the overall project’s success.
We explored the pros and cons of ‘smart city’ technologies through case studies of key comparator cities and relevant cultural districts (Atlanta, Georgia; Columbus, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; Portland, Oregon; Cleveland, Ohio; and San Jose, California). In particular, we were looking at accountability for the handling of personally-identifying information; social metrics and barriers crucial to user-acceptance of technologies; and produced a values-driven framework for the adoption of technology in the Cultural Center from a critical analysis of existing rubrics.
In response to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, we tracked and captured the public-facing web presence of all of the twelve institutional stakeholders (all institutional websites, all social media channels to understand how they were delivering their organizational missions digitally, and maintaining an institutional presence online. We did comparative analysis of the data collected benchmarked against local, regional, and national institutions that were all tracked in the same way.
We looked beyond the Cultural Center and spoke to relevant agencies in the wider city (such as the Downtown Detroit Partnership, Detroit Community Technology Project, Data Driven Detroit, and we joined the Connect 313 Task Force).
Detroit Square (DSQ) by Agence Ter, Akoaki, rootoftwo, and Harley Etienne was the winner of the 2018-19 DIA Plaza | Midtown Cultural Connections international design competition. This project involves the ~$100 Million master planning of 83-acres of Midtown Detroit estimated to take 7-10 years to implement. 44 submissions representing over 10 countries and 22 cities from around the world were received.
Midtown Detroit Inc. was awarded a one-year $500,000 grant from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to help implement a comprehensive digital strategy, including installation of free, outdoor public Wi-Fi in 2021 throughout the Cultural Center. The Knight Foundation grant also supports capacity building, and the development of infrastructure and compelling use cases for technology within the Cultural Center.
Midtown Detroit Inc., Wayne State University (WSU) and rootoftwo are working in partnership to provide outdoor wireless in the Cultural Center area. The CCPI Wireless will be an extension of WSU’s existing campus system and will help attract visitors to the district and encourage more outdoor programming, while providing accessible and reliable public Wi-Fi for audiences throughout the outdoor spaces of the district. Additional funding to support this system was provided by Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.
The Knight Foundation grant also supports the development of digital capacity workshops focused on the creation of new digital experiences and will be accompanied by small grants for the stakeholder institutions to test ideas.
Marshall, John., and Cézanne Charles. Not at All Evenly Distributed, in The Routledge Companion to Media and the City. 2022. eds. Erica Stein, Germaine R. Halegoua, and Brendan Kredell. Milton Park: Taylor and Francis.
PRESS & AWARDS
Deadline Detroit Midtown design plan could narrow Woodward, make area more walkable
University of Michigan U-M faculty win international design competition to reimagine Detroit’s art and cultural district
Q&A: UM’s John Marshall shares vision for ‘Detroit Square’ in midtown
The Detroit News Design team’s ‘boldness’ wins competition to reshape Detroit’s cultural district
Curbed Design team selected to reshape Detroit’s cultural center
Detroit Free Press Winner of DIA design competition announced, seeks to reimagine Midtown Detroit
Archpaper Detroit picks team to shape Midtown cultural center
Daily Detroit Imaginative ‘Detroit Square’ project would transform midtown’s cultural center
Daily Detroit Apple Podcast
Midtown Detroit Inc International team wins DIA plaza | Midtown cultural connections competition
D Business Winner selected in DIA Plaza | Midtown cultural connections design contest to transform Detroit’s cultural district
Metropolis New Plan Aims to Revamp Midtown Detroit, the City’s Cultural Hub
Crain’s Winning design for revamped Detroit cultural district envisions unified landscape, architecture and technology
Corp Magazine Detroit, Midtown select locally inspired team to create cultural center
All About Ann Arbor University of Michigan faculty win DIA Plaza/Midtown Cultural Connections design competition
Detroit News Detroit’s Cultural Center to get free outdoor Wi-Fi
Crain’s Detroit Business $500,000 grant to expand free outdoor Wi-Fi, programming in Detroit’s Cultural Center
DBusiness Free Wi-Fi to be Added to Detroit’s Cultural Center in 2021
Michigan Chronicle Detroit’s Cultural Center Set to Install Free, Outdoor Public Wi-Fi in 2021
Location: Midtown Detroit
Client: Midtown Detroit Inc.
Schedule: DIA Plaza | Midtown Cultural Connections International Design Competition: 2018-19.
Develop CCPI Digital Strategy: 2019-2020.
Implement CCPI Digital Strategy: 2021-2022.
Funders: Midtown Detroit Inc., The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.
Partners: CCPI Steering Committee and Project Management Group; Carr Center; Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History; College for Creative Studies; Detroit Historical Museum; Detroit Institute of Arts; Detroit Public Library; Hellenic Museum of Michigan; International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit; Midtown Detroit, Inc.; Michigan Science Center; The Scarab Club; University of Michigan; and Wayne State University.
Cézanne Charles (rootoftwo)
John Marshall (rootoftwo)
Elizabeth Vander Veen (rootoftwo)
DIA Plaza | Midtown Cultural Connections Community Engagement Workshop Images
Photos: Dorinda Sumter; Copyright 2018, © Dori Sumter Photography. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
DIA Plaza | Midtown Cultural Connections Exhibition
Courtesy: Midtown Detroit Inc.
Photos: David Lewinski; Copyright 2019, © David Lewinski Photography. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Jury of the the DIA Plaza | Midtown Cultural Connections International Design Competition.
Courtesy: Michigan Photography
Photos: Scott C. Soderberg; Copyright 2019, © Michigan Photography. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Announcement of the winners of the DIA Plaza | Midtown Cultural Connections International Design Competition.
Courtesy: Michigan Photography
Photos: Daryl Marshke; Copyright 2019, © Michigan Photography. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.