What's the Game Plan?

This studio painted a picture of contemporary Detroit by understanding the games that developers, banks, CDCs and other urban actors play in Detroit today.


Lawrence Tech University

Project Team:

Tobias Armborst, Daniel D'Oca, Georgeen Theodore

City-making can resemble a board game, where there are players (landlords, tenants, neighborhood associations, developers, banks, commercial entrepreneurs, preservationists, economic development agencies) who, using the hands they are dealt (property, money) and their “chips” (buying power, the power to zone, property rights), play for outcomes (a ”tech town,” a vibrant downtown, a “return to nature,” etc). Sometimes, players form coalitions, and sometimes, they work independently. Some players are sworn enemies, and some find common ground, despite being very different. Sometimes, players get a “boost” in the form of, say, a newspaper article that manipulates public opinion, and sometimes, players get set back by things like crimes, fires, and election cycles. As with any game, there are winners and losers.

Based on our premise that a good understanding of the multiple, sometimes conflicting agendas of different urban actors is essential for designers who wish to mobilize their own, the object of this studio, which Interboro taught at Lawrence Technical University in summer, 2013, was to use the games that developers, banks, homeowners, community development corporations, preservationists, and other urban actors play in Detroit today as raw material for design speculations. By interrogating the modi operandi of a range of actors, we wished to introduce advanced architecture students to large-scale design in the complex, contentious, and confounding world of contemporary city-making.