A NEW SKYLINE FOR DETROIT WATERFRONT DISTRICT: THE AMERICAN METROPOLIS AT THE HEART OF THE MANNI GROUP DESIGN AWARD

Oct 15, 2020

The 2nd edition of the Manni Group Design Award, the international architecture prize that identifies sustainable solutions to write the future of our cities, is starting. An outstanding jury of international archistars will award the €20,000 cash prize to the most sustainable and innovative projects.

After the success of the Xi'An Train Station Contest in 2019, with excellent proposals from 75 countries around the world, this year's focus moves to the USA: the competition launched by Manni Group, in collaboration with YAC - Young Architects Competitions and Sterling Group, invites participants to design a new mixed-use quarter in the urban void overlooking the river and surrounded by the skyscrapers of downtown Detroit, Michigan.

Architecture as the driver of urban regeneration

The issue then is the urban regeneration related to the offsite steel construction, which reflects the principles of sustainability, recyclability and energy savings, combined to ensure minimal environmental impact and the maximum freedom of expression for the designer.

The competition was officially presented on 13th October during the digital talk Architecture as the driver of urban regeneration, which hosted three of the judges of the Manni Group Design Award for an extraordinary panel: Jorge P. Silva of Aires Mateus, Giovanni De Niederhausern of Pininfarina and Giulio Rigoni of BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group shared their thoughts on the fundamental role of architecture in the redevelopment of cities, stressing the importance of basing strategies and policies on environmental sustainability.

Jorge Silva led us to discover projects of urban renovation of Portuguese charming historical sites, in particular the main squares of Porto Côvo, a tiny village in the south of the country; of the city of Vila Real de Santo Antonio, and of the downtown Lisbon – after being affected by a devastating earthquake in 1755 -, gathering common places and heart of the citizens’ main activities.


De Niederhausern of Pininfarina showed us how the re-design of a single building or infrastructure can constitute a huge recovery for an entire district. A focused urban plannig was at the centre of his speech: leaving aside projects on a large scale, his aim is to focus on fewer specific ones. This enables an optimization of sustainable results on different levels: economic, social and environmental ones.

Among his case histories: Cyrela, a residential building located in the suburbs of San Paolo, Brazil, driver project for the subsequent upgrading of a larger area; Vilnius 5G Opera House, in Lithuania; and ATC Tower, the control tower of the airport in Istanbul, to which the methodology DFM (Design for Manufacturing) was applied, requiring an off-site construction of the whole building, which allows a significant reduction of costs thanks to the faster installation times on site.


Giulio Rigoni carried us to Brooklyn for the conversion of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway infrastructure – a highway structure on three levels - into a waterfront park, the Brooklyn Queens Park. The main focus of the project based on the connection between the citizen and nature is here related to urban road network issues. The street net efficiency of the sorrounding area, thanks to the removal of the present architectural barrier, makes a continuum between Brooklyn Heights and the Brooklyn Bridge park possible, thus ensuring also an easier and safer acces to the riverfront, and improving significantly the air quality. 

This regeneration process proved the need of including all the Stakeholders to identify the best solution for the city.

The connection to the 2nd edition of the Manni Group Design Award was established by Sterling Group, developer of the project, who eventually gave his perspective on the evolution of Detroit, a city that from the ashes of a rough past aims for a future rich in opportunities.

Detroit Waterfront District

In the early 1940s, Detroit was called "the arsenal of democracy". Yet in recent decades, massive depopulation and the consequent degradation of the suburbs transformed one of the most prosperous American metropolis into the largest ghost town that modernity has ever known: a limitless succession of battered houses, deserted streets, abandoned buildings.

It's in one of these huge urban voids on the grounds where Joe Luis Arena stood, overlooking the Detroit River in front of the Canadian shore, that the designers are called to redesign the future leisure and entertainment heart of the city. The Detroit Waterfront Discrict will become a dynamic hub of attraction complete with luxury residences, hotels, business areas, shopping and cultural centers; a pulsating and sustainable center, with links to the elements of the Michigan metropolis: the presence of water and urban greenery, in fact, will represent real cornerstones for human aggregation and well-being.

Each intervention must be inspired by the principles of energy sustainability and environmental compatibility, and dry steel construction technologies will be preferred, in line with the architectural characteristics and density of the downtown. For this reason, competitors are provided with an abacus of project nodes that may enable the competitors to obtain one of the four specific mentions recognized by the competition partners.

Manni Group: steel and sustainability

The italian Manni Group provides systemssolutions and skills for the dry construction steel industry. It promotes new scenarios in order to remove energy waste and polluting emissions in the existing estate stock. Thanks to its 75-years experience, the Group has turned international by promoting the principles of Circular Economy and sustainable construction.

This entailed the processing of materials such as 100% recyclable steel to make products that contribute to meet the standards to obtain LEED and BREEAM certifications. Moreover, the Group relies on instruments to enhance transparency as EPD and ILFI’s (International Living Future Institute) DECLARE label.

Today, more than ever, looking towards the future means committing to a more sustainable world. This world has to be able to preserve the existing resources and opportunities for the next generations: the Manni Group Design Award 2020 contest becomes a prestigious and refined event, aiming to stimulate international debate and pave the way for change through the enhancement of young architects’ talent.

The international jury

Thanks to the support of YAC, a Bologna-based company that promotes competitions for ideas and architecture, the Detroit Waterfront District contest will involve a community of more than 4000 professionals all over the world. The most sustainable and innovative projects will be selected by the prestigious jury of the Manni Group Design Award, composed of international architects and designers.

There are 14 judges, including archistars such as Daniel Libeskind (Studio Libeskind), Giulio Rigoni (BIG Bjarke Ingels Group), Jorge P. Silva (Aires Mateus AA), Marie Hesseldahl Larsen (3XN), Marcos Rosello (aLL Design).

Moreover, the partners of the initiative are: Colorcoat Prisma® by Tata Steel as Main Sponsor, who will assign a Gold mention for projects featuring design facades; Dow, an American multinational chemical corporation, and Rockwool, leader company in the production of mineral wool solutions, as Sponsors.

Useful Infos

Manni Group Design Award cash prize: € 20,000

Participation: individuals or teams of architects of any nationality can participate, as long as at least one member is under 35.

Submissions Deadline: 23 December 2020

Early bird Deadline: 25 October 2020

More info: www.youngarchitectscompetitions.com/competition/detroit-waterfront-district

For any information or support request contact YAC at yac@yac_ltd.com.

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