Infrastructure space in city of contrasts

Two MSD students represented our Faculty in Detroit for the LafargeHolcim Foundation Infrastructure Space Forum.

Interior of the Michigan theatre, now a parking lot

Photograph courtesy of Hannah Robertson and Joshua Stellini

PhD student Hannah Robertson and Master of Architecture student Joshua Stellini had the exciting opportunity to participate in the LafargeHolcim Infrastructure Space Forum, held from 7-9 April 2016 in Detroit USA.

Sponsored by the LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, the Forum provided a platform for scholars and practitioners from the fields of architecture, urbanism, engineering and other related disciplines, to debate the future of the built environment.

A total of 33 Master level or PhD students up to the age of 30 from 11 partner and associated universities of the Foundation were invited to join the Forum as representatives of the “Next Generation”.

Joshua and Hannah presented a poster-format project, which demonstrated solutions in sustainable construction. The posters were exhibited in an on-site gallery for the duration of the Forum.

“We had an incredible time and the pleasure of meeting a huge array of fascinating people working across the field of sustainable construction,” says Hannah.

The visit enabled them to see and engage with areas of Detroit that may have been very difficult to access, had they not been part of the Forum. The contrasts that this opportunity afforded were striking. “We dined amongst Diego Riviera murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts in the evening, then visited dilapidated buildings the next day, such as the Michigan Theater, an opulent old movie theatre now home to a parking lot.”

The Forum positioned infrastructure as integral to the successful and sustainable habitation of both the developed and developing world. Infrastructural systems should not be seen as presenting technical issue alone and must be treated as social in scope and design.

This theme was especially pertinent against the backdrop of Detroit, a city which is being uniquely shaped by enormous change since the global financial crisis. Thinking through the Forum topics in this context was deepened by conversations with an impressive group of attendees.

Hannah explains, “We gained valuable insight into different perspectives of sustainable construction across the architectural, metropolitan, territorial and planetary scales, in addition to having the unique opportunity to informally share insights with participants and fellow audience members who ranged from heads of UN departments, the International Red Cross to engineers and architects working in the field.”