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Workshop: Collective Memories

September 18, 2017 at 9:00 am - September 29, 2017 at 5:00 pm

Workshop: Collective Memories

The workshop will be exploring, researching and working in Detroit. The most populous city in the state of Michigan, ‘The Motor City’, was once home to the world’s automotive industry and from the 1940’s onwards, experienced rapid growth, making it the 4th largest in the USA. Industrial restructuring and loss of jobs in the industry led to a 60% reduction in population, which by the early 21st century, left large districts of the city vacant. As unoccupied buildings fall into disrepair and plants and wildlife return, the cities condition is morphed from urban to suburban. As this change takes place, not just the buildings are lost but also the stories and culture that surrounded and inhabit them. 

As a city whose culture had significant international influence, particularly in music as the home of Motown and Techno, we believe it is important that in a time of rapid change, this memory is not lost. We believe the best cities to be rich and complex places. In a time of globalisation and homogenisation, it is important to maintain diversity. Culture and memory are vital in creating a better society and something that should be built upon and not forgotten.

Our task over the next two weeks will be to discover and uncover this culture and then represent it physically. We are interested in how objects, from the scale of a door handle right through to a complete building are able to embody history and memory. We are interested in the specifics of a place, whether these be the extraordinary or the everyday. 

Working in groups, we will start the week with a presentation of texts which explore ideas about ordinary culture, architecture and symbolism. We will then travel to Detroit, spending 2 days on the ground, exploring, meeting and researching people from the city, in an attempt to uncover narratives and anecdotes about the city.

Using these as a starting point, we will then return to Ann Arbor to design and build an artifact that embodies and represents your findings. The two weeks will end with a display of your work in Detroit, which will form the setting of an event with all those we have met. 

“The habit of direct action is, perhaps, identical with the habit of being a free man, prepared to live responsibly in a free society.” David Wieck, ‘The Habit of Direct Action’ as quoted in ‘Anarchy in Action’ by Colin Ward

Collective Memories is a collaborative workshop organized by faculty from Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and The Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design. The lecture and workshop are part of the University of Michigan’s Third Century Initiative, which funds experimental pedagogies in a bid to change how teaching and learning happen within the bounds of the institution. In collaboration with University of Michigan Stamps School of Art & Design. Popps Packing is our Detroit partner for this workshop. 

Participation in “Collective Memories” is limited. Please contact Assistant Professor Tsz Yan Ng (tszng@umich.edu) or Professor David Chung (davchung@umich.edu) with questions. 


September 18, 2017 at 9:00 am
September 29, 2017 at 5:00 pm