International Building Exhibition, Detroit, Logo

We conceived of the idea to promote and advance the architecture of housing in Detroit through an internationally acclaimed strategy of conducting an International Building Exhibition (IBX). Together with the Detroit Planning and Development Department we discussed the opportunity to create a platform to showcase excellence in multifamily architecture and urban design.

First ideas were modeled around the concept of the ‘IBA’, which for more than hundred years was synonymous with ‘Internationale Bauausstellung’ (international building exhibition). The organization of such an undertaking is much more than an exhibition in the literal sense. It is rather an instrument of visionary urban development where researchers, international architects and urbanists, politicians, neighborhood organizations, and universities work in a lab-like environment within a given timeframe on the entire city or region.

We designed the identity and logo to kickstart the first initiative. The logo implies the silhouette of the City of Detroit through a striped pattern. The bold fresh look of the graphic references recent European IBA’s, while the striping symbolized the ‘construction site’ Detroit. The logotype IBX_D, standing for International Building eXhibition (in) Detroit, grows out of the silhouette and is seemingly part of the process of the ‘construction’.

The IBX_D was supposed to be the first International Building Exhibition on the American Continent and was meant to extend Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design designation of 2015.

In 2017 the initiative attracted a number of local entities from government organizations, educational institutions, private developers and cultural non-profit organizations to kick off the first exhibition. Although not conceived as a multi-year ‘workshop’ of initiatives in architecture, planning and with socio-economic and cultural components, the idea of the public discourse quickly transformed into the ‘Detroit Design 139’ exhibition. The first exhibition was on show during the entire ‘Month of Design’ in September 2017 and has hosted exhibitions, events, conversations, and publications focusing on the future of Detroit’s built and natural environment.

‘Detroit Design 139’ became a biannual exhibition that includes built and planned projects demonstrating design excellence in housing and urban design for Detroit’s neighborhoods as well as contributions from graduate student work, researching and exploring solutions for several of Detroit’s new housing opportunities.

Building exhibitions have been held in Germany for over hundred years and are conducted to find innovative solutions for the most pressing problems in our urban environments. Significant milestones in housing innovations were the Interbau exhibition of 1957 in the Hansaviertel in Berlin to find solutions to rebuild cities which experienced substantial war damage after WWII. The Berlin IBA 1987 offered models of reconstructing urban spaces and repair the ‘construction sins’ of the 1960 and 1970’s. Since the first IBA in 1901, seventeen exhibitions have been conducted, each with a unique emphasis on current concerns and needs. Although the IBA of 1927 at Weißenhof in Stuttgart inspired many similar exhibitions throughout Europe, the 2010-20 IBA Basel and 2012-20 IBA Parkstad Limburg have been the first initiatives outside Germany branded as IBA. This marks the breakthrough into the international realm.

The label ‘IBA’ is a non-registered marque, which can be conducted by any entity in any location. Today’s building exhibitions are a kind of workshops which can be conducted over several years and besides presenting new architecture, include social, economic and cultural concerns.

Type: Identity Design, Logo Design
Detroit, Michigan, USA
Summer 2017
City of Detroit Planning and Development Department, University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning

Team: Lars Gräbner, Christina Hansen, Sharon Haar

Detroit Design 139