Student Design Summit



As a part of the DIA Plaza & Midtown Cultural Connections international design competition, the Detroit Institute of Arts, University of Michigan, & College for Creative Studies invites student design teams to envision the museum’s future through the lens of CONNECTIVITY. The aim of this competition is to address the opportunity the DIA and surrounding cultural district have to connect with each other and with outside communities. Individual students and interdisciplinary student teams will develop cutting-edge tactics, prototypes, concepts, and designs that would better integrate the DIA in its unique geography at the heart of the region’s greatest collection of cultural assets.

What is the role of the art museum and cultural district in the 21st century? How do cultural institutions establish or reflect civic values? What tactics, tools, or designs can be developed to help these institutions better serve the communities around them? And where does public space fit into the mix?

The DIA annually hosts over half a million visitors, offers a host of programming for all ages, engages communities throughout Michigan, and holds one of the most thorough encyclopedic collections of artwork in the country. Additionally, Detroit’s cultural district is home to twelve institutions of culture & education that attract hundreds of visitors to the district daily. These institutions also serve the neighborhood's many residents (longtime and student) in this corner of Midtown. Given these great assets, the DIA and cultural district are setting out to find innovative ways to attract new audiences and activate the often forgotten exterior public spaces between buildings. Student-generated design solutions will make the most of these assets while addressing the challenges around public space and the DIA’s role as an anchor institution for Detroit and our region.

Student teams will have the chance to work parallel to a professional design competition. Three design teams will develop conceptual master plans leading up to January 2019, when they will present their designs to a jury of experts and to the public at the DIA. Students will learn from professional teams and key stakeholders, and contribute to a project that will transform the public space of the DIA and cultural district for centuries to come. The student projects should identify a particular challenge within this context, and build an appropriate and innovative solution that can be well addressed over the course of a semester. Student teams will showcase their solutions in three minute-long videos and posters, to be voted on by the jury and the public in January 2019. Winning teams will: 1) Have their deliverables shared with the professional design team, 2) Be recognized at the student competition showcase in January 2019, and 3) Win a prize of $2,500.

Evaluation Criteria

  • Applicability: Does the proposed idea address the current conditions of the DIA, district, city, and region? Does it undertake an innovative approach to the theme of CONNECTIVITY?

  • Feasibility: Can the idea be built, programmed, funded, and/or maintained for a reasonable budget? Does it take into account user needs, public safety, seasonal weather, visibility, etc. What scope does it address?

Aspirational: Does the team’s concept make the DIA and cultural district a better place to visit, work, and live? What is the vision for the future of the DIA and cultural district?


Alongside the public, the following jurors will evaluate the final student design team project submissions:

  • Dan Pitera, FAIA, Executive Director- Detroit Collaborative Design Center, University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture 

  • Vince Carducci, Dean of Undergraduate Studies- College for Creative Studies  

  • Kameshwari (Kami) Pothukuchi, Professor of Urban Planning-  Wayne State University, Founding Director of SEED Wayne   

  • Sue Mosey, Executive Director- Midtown Detroit, Inc.  

  • Dan Rieden, Lead Landscape Architect, Planning & Development Dept.- City of Detroit 

  • George Jacobsen, Senior Program Officer, Cultural and Civic Vitality- William Davidson Foundation 

  • Darian Razdar, Masters of Science in Planning- University of Toronto

  • Felicia E. Molnar, Executive Director, Strategic Initiatives- Detroit Institute of Arts 

Competition Period

September 24, 2018 - January 23, 2019

Registration Period

September 24, 2018 - November 30, 2018

Please set up a FREE Slideroom account and register HERE for the Summit.

Important Dates

  • September 24, 2018 | 6:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.
    Student Design Summit Kickoff @ Kresge Court, DIA (doors at 5:45 p.m.)

  • October 10, 2018 | 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
    Participation in professional design team public workshop (optional but highly encouraged-this event is part of the professional design team competition)

  • October 16, 2018 | 5:00 p.m.- 6:00 p.m.
    A Public Conversation on the Future of Museums, Public Spaces and Parks with renowned architect Sir David Adjaye of the Smithsonian’s African American History Museum
    @ DIA’s Detroit Film Theatre

  • October 22, 2018 | **6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

    Perspectives on the DIA and Cultural Center : an opportunity for student teams to hear from stakeholder institutions and ask questions about what kinds of changes different cultural institutions would like to see in the district @ College for Creative Studies, Ford Campus, room W217 in the Walter B. Ford II Building

The event will be live streamed HERE

  • November 12, 2018 | 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
    What it Takes to Make the Cultural District Run @ Wayne State University Welcome Center- 42 W. Warren, Detroit, MI 48202

    This event will give participants the opportunity to get insight from the people who make sure the Cultural District is a safe and engaging place to live, work and visit every day. Specialists will be available to discuss the following topics as related to the Cultural District: personal safety/security, local history, facilities & site operations, narrative / videography,  previous and on-going revitalization efforts and programming, engagement efforts, transportation and mobility, design and natural environment considerations. Please come prepared with clarifying questions for your own project. Dinner and light refreshments will be available at this event! 

  • November 30, 2018 | by Midnight
    Student team online registration deadline - register HERE

  • December 14, 2018 | 5 p.m.
    All video submissions due in Slideroom by 5 p.m.

  • January 14, 2019 | 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
    Student design team showcase & celebration (winners announced, top 10 projects showcased) @ DIA

  • January 23, 2019 | 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
    Three professional design team finalists present conceptual plans to Jury & public @ DIA Rivera Court


  • Jury Prize: $2,500

  • Public Prize: $2,500

  • Top ten projects will be showcased at January 14 event and have their project posters printed in color.

  • Runners-up will receive honorable mentions, but deliverables will not be showcased.

  • All competing team members will receive certificates of participation.

Deliverables & Outcomes

  • Deliverables can take many forms—apps, reports, design concepts, animations, models, performance, etc.—as long as they meet the above criteria.

  • Virtual poster to present and share your project.

  • Three minute video showcasing your deliverable and process.


  • Individuals or teams of students (no maximum or minimum # of students)

  • Interdisciplinary teams are strongly encouraged

  • Team members must attend the Student Design Summit on September 24, 2018 at the DIA

  • Teams must register by October 12, 2018 at 5:00 p.m.

  • Team members must be able to attend regular events in Detroit between September 2018 and January 2019 (see above calendar)