Winners of the 2018 Student Design Summit

Discover the winners of the 2018 Student Design Summit !


winner of the jury award and people’s choice award: 51Eighty/wsu

School: Wayne State University

Team Members: Xiao Zhou, Kristin Shaw, Gus Navvarro, Shelby Holmes, Allison Elam, Heather Washington, Tori Williamson, Krupa Vora, Jessica Stroble, Mariah Bosquez, Ashaki Zeigler

Description: For nearly a century, the Detroit Institute of Arts has served as the anchor of imagination locally as well as regionally. With a rich history and timeless architecture, this institution has served as the beacon of all things that have been - and things that could be, in the minds of the locals and visitors to the region. It is home to iconic cultural treasures and numerous masterpieces. 51Eighty - Wayne State University's proposal to the DIA Midtown Cultural Connections Student Competition, seeks to advance this legacy.


honorable mention for Interactive Design: connectd/ u of m

School: University of Michigan

Team Members: Denise Baran, Alissa Graff, Teresa Cao, Guanrong Wang

Description: We are addressing the lack of digital and physical connection between the cultural institutions in Midtown Detroit. We are approaching this with a digital app, a physical booklet, and a proposal to use the midtown U-M building as a central information hub for the cultural district.


honorable mention for product design: d-lens - Miux/ u of m

School: University of Michigan

Team Members: Jorge Cazares, Caitlin Helgesen, Megan St. Andrew, Yankun Wang

Description: As UX designers, we wanted to enhance the current user experience of visitors to the cultural district in exploratory and interactive ways. Currently, visitors are not necessarily cognizant of the institutions and opportunities available to them in the district. With our solution, users can have a magnified view of the district that's both fun and informative, all easily accessible between their car and their destination.


honorable mention for overall design:
The Open Museum: Space Activators/ Taubman College U of M

School: University of Michigan

Team Members: Benjamin Peace, Shaobo Niu, Da Chen

Description: The DIA inhabits a very enclosed architecture. This project aims to design spaces in the context surrounding the DIA to open its collection to the world.


Student Design Summit Winners Announced in the Competition to Reimagine the Cultural District in Midtown Detroit 

Detroit, MI—Including the voices of young people, who hold the keys to the future of our cities, was top of mind for the Cultural District planning partners in launching a Student Design Summit competition in the Fall of 2018 to run in parallel with the professional DIA Plaza/ Midtown Cultural Connections International Design Competition. More than 93 student participants from throughout the state of Michigan representing high school, college and university teams from Wayne State University, University of Michigan, College for Creative Studies, University of Detroit/Mercy, and Interlochen Academy of Arts submitted more than 23 team entries. The winner of the $2500 top prize and as well as the $2500 People’s Choice Award was Wayne State University. Three honorable mentions were awarded to teams from the University of Michigan. 

“The Wayne State team seemed to practice what they preach,” said Dan Rieden, Lead Landscape Architect, City of Detroit, Planning & Development Department. “They actually went out and interviewed stakeholders and they showed us one way at least on how to engage the community.” 

The jury of eight thought leaders representing the City of Detroit, Midtown Detroit, Inc., Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, The William Davidson Foundation, The Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, Detroit Institute of Arts, and the University of Toronto School of Urban Planning noted that the winning entry featured a complete and very professional attempt to create connection in the Cultural District through transforming the district’s parking lot on John R into a park-like cultural commons with a performance space, food trucks, play area and retail space. The jury also noted that many of the teams presented thoughtful and cohesive presentations that kept the focus on the existing institutions while creatively addressing basic needs such as lighting, seating, and signage to create a space where everyone feels welcome to stay. 

"Collectively, the students’ ideas show a nuanced understanding of the many challenges associated with connecting the cultural institutions to each other, and the surrounding neighborhood. The need to create a setting that highlights all institutions' offerings is clearly seen in the submissions,” said A. Paul Fontaine, Program Manager for the Michigan Engaging Community through the Classroom Initiative at the Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning at the University of Michigan. "The students’ work succinctly and imaginatively identify the primary issues the professional design teams will need to tackle in the coming year." 

The jury assessed the submissions based on a project brief with a challenge to come up with ideas on how to help connect the 12 cultural and educational institutions in Detroit’s Midtown cultural district. The ideas submitted by the 23 teams were broad with some focusing on technology-only interventions including apps for connecting visitors with the programs and collections offered in the District. The winning team stands out for their “aspirational vision for the Cultural District,” said Juror Felicia E. Molnar, Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives, Detroit Institute of Arts. “They took a risk in trying to solve for the entire cultural district and I appreciate the Big thinking.”