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Let’s Go Downtown and Get Lost in the Forest

That’s the idea behind the prize-winning entry in a Detroit design competition.

A rendering of The Forest, the first place winner of the “Detroit by Design 2012: Detroit Riverfront Competition.” (Courtesy atelier WHY)

January 11, 2013 By Lawrence Karol

A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.
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There’s a section of riverfront near downtown Detroit that includes the city’s Hart Plaza. 

It’s got a tunnel to Canada, an ugly, view-obstructing parking garage, and the scar of the recently demolished Ford Auditorium, among other monuments to a bygone era.

In other words, it’s not much to look at. But the first-place winner in the Detroit by Design 2012: Detroit Riverfront Competition aims to change all this.

 'The Forest', by Hyuntek Yoon and Soobum You of Atelier WHY, proposes, as the name suggests, a swath of timberland smack dab in the heart of a concrete jungle.

“We began by thinking about the project from three aspects,”
Hyuntek and Soobum told TakePart. 

“First, we wanted to empty the site. Many things fill the city and continue to do so—the act of 'filling' is the virtue of urban development. However, a city needs space to breath and is far too compact to communicate with people and nature.”

MORE: In New York City, a Vibrant Green Space Emerges...Underground

“We also wanted to use The Forest as a setting for fantasy and imagination. In this sense, our proposal is radical and provocative and creates another possibility for the idea of an urban park. Finally, we wanted to make the site a landmark in the city without actually building a highrise. So our proposal doesn’t have any massive structures or buildings. We used the dense forest as spatial mass, and a knoll as spatial void. This spatial contrast creates a strong visual contrast.”

The forest’s smaller components include sculptures, trails, and bridges. 

But the knoll is a big open space where large-scale activities, such as concerts, screenings, or theatrical performances could take place with The Forest as its backdrop. 

The knoll cantilevers over the river’s edge and houses an indoor visitor center.

“The knoll itself provides a semi-exterior space like a canopy,”
said Hyuntek and Soobum.

 “It would be used as a shelter and a foyer, and in rainy and snowy weather this space can be an alternative exterior space in The Forest. In addition, it will be the most active space for night venues. The cantilever encloses the exterior space and linear waterfront pedestrian path. This is the moment that linear space transforms to vertical space and planar space.”

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