April 3, 2018 (Detroit)—The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) and Midtown Detroit Inc. (MDI) announced today they are sending a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to landscape architecture and urban design teams for a “DIA Plaza and Midtown Cultural Connections” design competition.

The design competition centers around enhancing and enlivening the DIA’s exterior campus and seeks an outstanding integrated design team for developing an urban and landscape design strategy and cultural center connection framework. Teams will be asked first to create a strong design vision that reimagines the DIA’s grounds, making them highly visible, welcoming, flexible and functional to support year-round outdoor programming. Secondly, they are to take elements from the DIA design and extend them to physically connect to the neighboring institutions to encourage walkability, improve wayfinding, identify other opportunities for public art and programming and consider shared parking strategies and improved design.

The design competition is one of the initial steps in realizing DIA Director Salvador Salort-Pons’ vision of the museum as a “town square” of our community.

“The essence of city life throughout the world is defined by expressive, and sometimes distinctive, public spaces that epitomize community by drawing everyone together, making interaction, activities and events the ultimate expression of vitality,” said Salort-Pons. “Together with our partner, Midtown Inc., and the rest of the cultural organizations, we know that the public space in Detroit’s cultural district holds great promise for making our community a stronger, more diverse and inclusive destination.”

In addition to the DIA and MDI, stakeholder institutions are actively engaged in the process of developing a grand vision for the district. They include Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, College for Creative Studies, Detroit Historical Museum, Detroit Public Library, Hellenic Museum of Michigan, International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit, Michigan Science Center, Scarab Club, University of Michigan, University Prep Science and Math Middle School and Wayne State University.

“Building upon the work begun with the DIA Plaza, the Midtown Cultural Connections project vision is to establish connections between our cultural institutions both physically and through shared programming,” said Susan Mosey, executive director of Midtown Detroit, Inc. “The goal is to inspire an inter-connectivity between our institutions and ultimately unify the district.”

An extensive civic engagement program will also feed into this process, as the success of the project depends on the many opportunities to engage a broad range of stakeholders from the surrounding communities, the city and the region beyond.

The RFQ asks firms to submit their qualifications by April 30 via https://midtowndetroitinc.slideroom.com.  Eight firms will be chosen by a world-class jury consisting of: William Gilchrist, city planning manager, Oakland, CA; Cara McCarty, curatorial director, The Cooper Hewitt Museum, Smithsonian Institution; Julie Bargmann, founder of D.I.R.T Studio and professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Virginia; Detroit-born Mario Moore, artist; Maurice Cox, City of Detroit planning director; Jonathan Massey, dean, Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan; Dr. Juanita Moore, CEO, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History; Richard Rogers, president, College for Creative Studies; and Salvador Salort-Pons, director, Detroit Institute of Arts.

The eight firms will make public presentations in Detroit on June 13–14, 2018. Three finalists will then be selected to enter stage three in the competition: to design and amplify the possibilities of the project. The three firms will make public presentations on Jan. 23, 2019 at the DIA, and the winning team will be announced in March 2019.

“We invite the design community as part of this competition to think big and creatively as we innovatively set a course for the future to find solutions that will inspire us to create a public art space that creates bridges that connect to our neighboring institutions,” said Salort-Pons.

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is supporting the project on a pro-bono basis to provide guidance for the overall vision and transparent governance process. The competition is funded by generous grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, William Davidson Foundation, and the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Foundation.

Firms interested in applying can download the RFQ at www.midtownculturalconnections.com.

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), one of the premier art museums in the United States, is home to more than 60,000 works that comprise a multicultural survey of human creativity from ancient times through the 21st century. From the first Van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum (Self-Portrait, 1887), to Diego Rivera's world-renowned Detroit Industry murals (1932–33), the DIA’s collection is known for its quality, range and depth. The DIA’s mission is to create opportunities for all visitors to find personal meaning in art.

Programs are made possible with support from residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.