Inspired Design

I recently went on a tour of the Little Village, a new cultural arts center on Detroit’s east side.
Giuseppa Nadrowski

I recently went on a tour of the Little Village, a new cultural arts center on Detroit’s east side that encompasses not only the Shepherd (once a church and now a beautifully renovated home for art galleries, a library, performance space, and more) but also an inn, a skatepark, and a sculptural garden with works by the late and iconic artist Charles McGee. Other projects currently in development include a new patisserie from James Beard award-winner Warda Bouguettaya (we hear she may offer ice cream at this new location!) and the Lantern, a completely overhauled former bakery that houses the Progressive Art Studio Collective (a gallery and studio space for artists with developmental disabilities and/or mental health differences), Signal Return (a nonprofit letterpress workshop), and the soon-to-open new home of Coup D’état (a fashion boutique). This entire new arts and design-focused campus is the result of the vision of Library Street Collective owners Anthony and JJ Curis, and the team of architects, designers, and landscape artists they brought in to help accomplish their dream.

I was in awe not only of the transformation of the former church, but of everything that’s shaping up in the neighborhood. Even former Detroit Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara, an avid photographer, is working on a project nearby, transforming a once-abandoned building into a photo residency space with a dark room, listening room, and gallery space. The I.M. Weiss Gallery has also moved into the block, with owner Isabelle Weiss now showcasing her thoughtful furniture-based exhibitions in her home as a new series titled La Sala.

What inspired me most of all, however, was the knowledge that great design is at the core of each one of these revolutionary renovations. The transformative power of architecture and art is on full display throughout the Little Village. And this power of design, with its ability to bring such positive change to the community, continues to inspire me each day.

Great design has the capacity not only to make a beneficial impact, but to encourage others to want to push through — and break — boundaries. Just take a look at what Ishtiaq Rafiuddin of Undecorated and Philip Kafka of Prince Concepts were able to do for Chef Javier Bardauil’s new restaurant, Puma, in Detroit’s Core City neighborhood. Once a service garage and car wash, the restaurant is now a shining example of adaptive reuse. This kind of ingenuity is also what has pushed furniture designer Evan Fay to create his extraordinary Lawless series; it’s what fueled the innovation at Zaha Hadid Design, whose inventive creations for the home are on view at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University; and it’s what drives each of the visionary talents we feature in this issue.

Great design is exactly why we host our annual Detroit Design Awards. We love to highlight and showcase the designers, builders, and craftspeople who continue to blaze trails and inspire us with their extraordinary work. It’s an honor to see our winners commended here for their incredible efforts. Bravo to each and every one of you! We can’t wait to see what design innovations next year brings.