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Avis-Elsmere receives a 2019 AIA Detroit Building Award in the Small Project category. The award recognizes the project's consideration of "the relationship between place and its community stakeholders as a critical component of the architecture." The awards will be presented at the 2019 AIA Detroit Celebration of Architecture. 

Avis-Elsmere receives a 2019 AIA / HUD Secretary Housing and Community Design Award in the Community Informed Design category which "recognizes design that supports physical communities as they rebuild inner city social structures and relationships that may have been weakened by outmigration, disinvestment, and the isolation of inner city areas." The awards were presented at a ceremony at the 2019 AIA National Conference in Las Vegas.

Avis-Elsmere is featured at the 2019 ACSA Intersections Symposium BOTTOM-UP SOCIAL CHANGE: Materials | Buildings | Community at the AIA Conference on Architecture June 6-8 in Las Vegas.  Tadd Heidgerken will be discussed the project in a seminar titled "Beyond the Building: Social Change through Community Engagement."

"Avis + Elsmere: Time as a Design Tool for Community" is featured at the ACSA (Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture) 107th Annual Conference​ in a workshop on "BEING VERSUS BECOMING THE CORE OF ARCHITECTURE," See the full workshop and submission info on the blog post. 

See the community, collaboration, and construction process at: The Alley Project Tumblr by Erik Howard


Southwest Detroit  |  2017


Winner  AIA Detroit Small Project Award, 2019

"...this building does so many of the little things right in its pursuit of cultivating community."

Winner  AIA / HUD Secretary's Award, 2019 "celebrating projects that prove good design is not exclusive"

Winner  AIA Detroit Small Project Award, 2019

Finalist – Design Core Detroit + AIA Detroit UNESCO City of Design Commerce Design Awards, 2018. 


Young Nation is an outreach, education, and youth development organization which "attempts to effect change by inspiring young minds through example and engagement." Young Nation's flagship work, called "The Alley Project," transformed a Southwest Detroit neighborhood alley and surrounding vacant lots into an inspirational graffiti art gallery, which connects neighbors and youth to each other as well as to community assets. 

This project sought to provide an anchor to The Alley Project through the renovation of an existing 2,400 square-foot building into a community center, Young Nation headquarters, and a leasable tenant area. The design challenge was to create a flexible, accessible, and authentic space which reflected the values of the community. The project began with a participatory process led by the Detroit Collaborative Design Center which engaged neighbors in the initial planning and design. 

The north facade was removed to create a larger community room, which opens onto an enclosed ‘front porch’ area, defined by the geometric-patterned ornamental ironwork screens that reference the fences and security screens prevalent in the neighborhood. Local metalworkers fabricated the screens; and local and national artists painted the mural which wraps the building. Window bays on the west facade provide visual connection to the street and future adjacent park. 

On the interior, bold colors and subtle patterns reference the mural and metalwork, and large moveable doors allow flexibility of spaces as well as provide functional writeable surfaces for meeting notes and impromptu artwork.

Project Team: Et al. Collaborative (Kristen Smith, Tadd Heidgerken) + Detroit Collaborative Design Center (Ceara O'Leary)

Participatory Design:  Detroit Collaborative Design Center

GC:  Michigan Alterations


Fabrication / Artwork:  Disenos Ornamental Ironwork (metalwork), Jordan Vaughn, Freddy Diaz, Dave Bequette (muralists)


Engineers/Specialty:  MA Engineering (MEP),

Darvas Engineering (structural)


Portfolio drawings:  Nicole Tischler


Photography: Erik Howard

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