Detroit's Cafe + Bureau at the 2017 Saint-Étienne International Design Biennial

A coffee shop, lounge, and co-working space for Biennial participants and visitors to reflect on the future of work.

Curated by Cézanne Charles (rootoftwo), ShiftSpace was produced by Creative Many Michigan and designed by Laavu studio. ShiftSpace featured Detroit style food, drink, and commissioned designed objects and art. It served as host venue for series of encounters and discussions, as well as workshops and events as part of the official program, on the theme: Universal Basic. Emblematic of the overarching curatorial theme ‘Working Promesse: Shifting Work Paradigms’; ShiftSpace was situated in the courtyard of the historic Manufacture buildings.

The 21st Century heralds an unprecedented change in what is meant by work and the valuing of labor within not just western industrialized societies but globally. ShiftSpace reflects and projects Detroit as a socio-temporal space where notions of work have always been re-framed by its people, its infrastructure and its organization of civic, cultural and financial capital in world changing ways. ShiftSpace explores how design is engaged in future-making that considers the post-optimal, the speculative, the social and the disruptive in Detroit and beyond.


ShiftSpace commissioned and presented the creative work of nine Detroit-based designers, artists, educators, chefs, writers, maker-manufacturers, and architects.

The space and scenography were designed by LAAVU, a multi-disciplinary Detroit-based architecture and urban design practice that is rooted in city-building. Participating creative practitioners include: Olayami Dabls, Marie T. Hermann, Senghor Reid, Anders Ruhwald, Ben Saginaw, Carl Wilson, Lisa Ludwinski (Sister Pie), 826Michigan, and Floyd.

The Universal Basic dialogue series intentionally explored the way the interconnected worlds of design, technology, politics and economics are able to produce results that benefit everyone. Universal Basic expresses a profound curiosity about what could be called the non-exceptional future – which positions futures and speculative work towards the formation of new and just socio-technical imaginaries. Topics included:

Income + Economy –  citizens’ wage, basic income, innovation economies, digital/crypto-currencies, inequality: Olga Stella, Julien Dorgnon, Thomas Twaites, Yann Moulier-Boutang, and Anne Choike

Equity + Inclusion –  social justice, civic engagement, movement building, community benefit: Wes Taylor, Ash Arder, and Kimberly Driggins

Civic Space + Urban Futures – mobility, resilient cities, regeneration, and creative place as an immersive field trip with Captain Ludd: Paul Buros, Pierrick Faure, Juliana Gotilla, and Martin Guillaumie 

Design + Education –  design education, systems thinking, workforce development, 21st century skills: Sharon Haar, Rick Rogers, and Claire Peillod

Work + Leisure –  future of work, sharing + solidarity economy, contractual work, social contract, and productivity: Hypermatière Collective in conversation with DAMI

The Universal Basic dialogues conceptually grew from the 2016 Creative State Creative Industries research project and report.


In 2016, Detroit was selected to be the guest city of honor for the 2017 Saint-Étienne International Design Biennial (10th edition). In December 2015, Detroit became the first and only UNESCO Creative City of Design in the US and joined a global network of creative cities including Saint-Étienne: The stewardship of Detroit’s designation is led by Design Core Detroit.

During its 10th edition, which took place from 9 March to 9 April 2017, Saint-Étienne International Design Biennial welcomed 230,000 visitors (general public, schools, international visitors, professionals) to events that tackled a contemporary societal issue: shifting work paradigms. Detroit’s representation at the 2017 Saint-Étienne International Design Biennial included a trio of exhibitions and experiences that collectively explored new collaborative and sustainable ways of living, thinking, and working together. Detroit brought a delegation of 73 designers, artists, architects, musicians, academics, urban farmers, and residents to the Biennial. ShiftSpace created 17 temporary jobs (combination of full and part-time workers) for the duration of the Biennial.



‘Working Promesse Les Mutations du Travail’

Cité du design. Olivier Peyricot. P206-207; p235.




Date: 2017

Location: Saint-Étienne, FR

Client: Creative Many Michigan & Design Core Detroit.
Invited project for IN Experience strand 2017 Saint-Étienne International Design Biennial, curated by Olivier Peyricot. 

Design: Spring 2016 – Spring 2017
Completed: Spring 2017

The John S. And James L. Knight Foundation, Ford Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Brandstorm, Faygo, Mcclure’s, and Design Core Detroit.

Creative Many Michigan, Design Core Detroit, Laavu, and rootoftwo.

Cézanne Charles (rootoftwo)
Kaija Wuollet (Laavu)

Dimensions: 35’ x 20’ x 16’ (inner building dimensions)

Media: various, functioning café and co-working space.


Featured Image & Press Day Image: ShiftSpace Biennial Press Preview & Launch.
Courtesy: Design Core Detroit
Photos: Stephen McGee

All Other Images: ShiftSpace at Work
Courtesy: rootoftwo and Creative Many Michigan
Photos: Anne Laure Lechat

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