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Timothy Gobel

César Torres-Bustamante

March 2021

The United States exhibits a rich continuum of human evolution: its landscapes are etched with relics of lost histories, and its cities are flush with snapshots of different cultures and time periods. Nevertheless, Americans have a difficult relationship with history, often sacrificing authenticity for profit. “Historical” areas are paved over, redesigned, and/or disneyified — immortalized by a gilded facade. Detroit, Michigan, is something of an anomaly to this system. It is defined by its strong cultural identity in conjunction with its socio-economic turmoil; distinguished by its underdeveloped landscape and many vacant buildings. Though these are typically designated as urban blight, the abandoned spaces offer a rare and underappreciated perspective on history. They stand firmly in opposition of a culture obsessed with modifying its past. My proposal aims to preserve this authenticity by integrating a site’s history with its physical and digital landscape. Set at the former Packard Automotive Plant, this restoration will translate its history into a digital reconstruction of the past, while retrofitting the site to address the needs of present Detroit.



I am a naturally creative person. Growing up, I would animate, reimagine, and reconstruct my surroundings. Clay to fluid, legos to people, cardboard to terrain, toys to stop-motion: I managed to overcome the ennui of suburban America. I pursued landscape architecture after realizing that I did not want to construct things, but moments. I want to create an environment that moves, adapts, and breathes as a cohesive experience. Participants should long to explore it, and the design should guide them every step of the way­-- provoking a sense of culture, community, and change.


Detroit has a significant history of racial prejudice, the effects of which are still felt today. Despite this, residents have been extremely resilient, and formed what journalist Drew Philips described as a “radical neighborliness”. I want my design to not only address the problematic elements of Detroit’s past, but also bolster this growing community and give it the advantages it has historically been denied.


This app utilizes the preserved areas of the site as the setting for a “Mixed Reality” adventure video game. Users would explore the abandoned buildings and, with their phones in hand, see what the site used to look like while talking to digital reconstructions of its former workers. I intend for the game’s story to be told from the perspective of these workers, relying on personal accounts and historical record.


Detroit does not need to mimic New York or Chicago or San Francisco. It is unique, and I want to respect how its changes have defined it from a conventional city. As such, my site program explores the ways the architecture can work for local area: one half being more concerned with education and community events and recreation, and the other half looking at how food can be grown and the environment revitalized.

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