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Downtown Detroit  |  2015

Standby was one of the first installments in a series of pedestrian-friendly entertainment options –including art galleries, public art displays, bars, and restaurants – which turned an empty alley into a downtown destination. Standby's team was seeking a vibrancy and energy within an intimate speakeasy-style setting that highlighted their innovative approach to food and craft cocktails. In addition, its owner requested that the space showcase several major art pieces in his collection.


The project spans the ground and basement floors of a five-story building in the center of Detroit’s downtown. Due to regulations surrounding the pedestrian art alleyway, all of the mechanical systems had to be contained within the restaurant space, while maximizing seating space. The solution was a mezzanine level that houses all the mechanical equipment above the bar. This creates a dramatic difference in ceiling heights and creates four distinct zones within the small space – the bar, the small group seating/standing area, the booths, and the main dining area.


Where possible, original building materials were used, including the tin ceiling over the main dining area, the wood floors that were patched in-place, and the existing steel beam found inside a wall during renovations – which inspired the extended steel support system for the mezzanine. The old elevator shaft was repurposed as the front entry, reusing old steel-plated doors for the alley door and creating a new translucent glass and steel mesh entry vestibule. New elements – including the wood bar ceiling, custom mirrored backbar, zinc bar top, and tall tufted booth seating – update classic bar elements with color and patterning.

Project Team: Et al. Collaborative of Detroit (Tadd Heidgerken, Kristen Smith) + Et al. NYC (visualization)

GC: NCS Construction

Fabrication: Taru Lahti (metalwork)


Engineers/Specialty: Millis & Associates (FSE)


Photography: Michelle and Chris Gerard, Sal Rodriguez

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