Lecture: Conrad Kickert, M.U.D. '06, Ph.D. '14
The Downtown that Never Was: The Rise, Fall and Reinvention of Downtown Detroit 1805-2015
Downtown Detroit is being rediscovered as a desirable center for living, working and recreation due to a long-overdue appreciation of its impressive supply of late 19th and early 20th century architecture. As downtown’s unique but crumbling building stock is currently being transformed into the territory of the creative class in search of an authentic and inspiring environment, the fruits of downtown’s history may prove to be its savior. As Detroit’s past is rediscovered, the risk of unsubstantiated nostalgia lures. Contrary to the commonly accepted narrative of loss, downtown Detroit’s heyday was short-lived and filled with adversity and uncertainty, leaving traces of only a brief moment of prosperity before the city’s pioneering spirit sought its fortunes in the fields beyond. In fact, downtown’s impressive collection of Beaux Arts and Art Deco buildings is as much the fruit of its short but strong primetime as its long subsequent decline in which buildings weren’t in need of renovation nor replacement. This presentation will demonstrate the feverish spirit of frontierism fueling the growth and decline of downtown Detroit over the past two centuries - the basis for downtown’s unique and layered present-day landscape.
Conrad Kickert is an Assistant Professor of Urban Design at the University of Cincinnati's School of Planning. Dr. Kickert has a background in urbanism and architecture from the TU Delft (Netherlands) and holds a PhD in architecture from the University of Michigan. He has worked as an urban researcher and designer for various design offices, property developers and non-profit organizations in The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. He is an urban design scholar whose research focuses on urban morphology, downtown revitalization and the bridge between urban form, configuration and retail economics. Currently, he is studying the histories of downtown Detroit and The Hague, focusing on their relationship between buildings and public space.