Detroit’s aging combined wastewater infrastructure lacks the capacity to safely manage overflows during wet weather, resulting in untreated sewage being released into the Detroit and Rouge Rivers. However, abundant vacant land presents an opportunity to manage stormwater on-site, limiting the volume entering the system. “Liquid Planning Detroit” posits that by altering design and construction practices, stormwater runoff can be kept on-site and reverse the negative impact of infrastructure failure in water quality and urban experience.
Run-off were collected in the year 2000 by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department system
Untreated combined sewage still overflows annually into the Detroit River as a result of heavy rainfall
Invested in the sewerage system since 1996 to control combined sewage overflows (CSOs), but it is still unable to manage the full volume
However, the city’s abundance of vacant land presents an opportunity to capture and hold more stormwater on-site, limiting the volume of water entering into the wastewater system.
“Liquid Planning Detroit” posits that by altering design and construction practices, stormwater runoff can be kept on-site and, therefore, reverse combined infrastructure failure and its negative impact on water quality and urban experience. Together with a large database and systematic mapping of Detroit’s condition, the project includes a series of design speculations that reclaim the civic value of the re-naturalized landscapes and a discussion of the public legibility of these design interventions. Alternatively, as collective attitudes toward urbanized watersheds evolve, the opportunity to analyze and visualize infrastructure as a complex system enables projective thinking that bridges green with grey, crossing both scale and time.
Following a prototypical approach, the designs propose a new system of spatial and material urban watersheds as key opportunities to guide environmental and cultural synthesis. Within current debates concerning the surplus of vacant land and the right-sizing of urban infrastructures, this approach activates the ground, reintroduces natural processes to the city, offers novel models of infrastructure governance, and instigates opportunities for targeted civic engagement. In doing so, Liquid Planning Detroit fosters the imaginative capacity of visions for Detroit’s future.
The research focuses on two prototypical conditions that could be replicated and scaled: (1) the Line represents the conditions of linearity and continuity associated with former rail line conduits, and (2) the Moor represents a patch system characteristic of a traditional Detroit residential neighborhood with high rates of vacancy.
In the Dequindre Cut, the “Line,” a series of sectional studies break the boundary of the rail line corridor and use vacant territories to construct a civic infrastructure that weaves water and public space together. The coupling of infrastructure, ecological systems and public space is imperative yet distinct from the monumental history of Detroit’s water towers and pump stations. Rather than concentrating investment in singular, heroic public works, the infrastructure of our time is polyfunctional, shape-shifting and distributed. Through this approach, the design generates a model for a new form of multilayered networked connectivity where the urban stormwater metabolism encompasses the articulation of cultural and social agendas.
In the “Moor,” a neighborhood of roughly four square miles in the northwest area of Detroit, along the Rouge River, serves as a case study to design for continuity (of stormwater management practices) within a condition of fragmentation (residential fabric with high rates of vacancy). The existing land use shows a majority of low density residential areas, with two main commercial corridors running east to west. Together with the Rouge Riverbed, and the highway trench, a second topographical depression crosses and connects the neighborhood from north to south.
“Liquid Planning Detroit” is part of the Detroit Sustainability Indicators Project, an effort by Data Driven Detroit (D3) and The Graham Sustainability Institute to support local decision-making through the increased availability of high-quality data.
Using autonomous sensors and valves to create “smart” stormwater systems to reduce flooding forecasting, and improve water quality.
Using wireless sensors to monitor water quality and flow conditions and to control drains to Ox Creek in Benton Harbor.
Optimizing phosphorus removal at Detroit’s water treatment facility, to keep it out of lakes and rivers.
Investigating the use of cutting-edge molecular tools that characterize and optimize water quality process performance.
Improving Benton Harbor’s aging water system using risk assessment and risk analysis techniques, as well as mobile sensors.
Using big data, data mining, and artificial intelligence to improve performance of the highly advanced Grand Rapids Water Resource Recovery Facilities.
Using remote sensing and security camera data to better understand how people are using the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy public spaces.
Application of real-time sensing and dynamic control on existing wastewater infrastructure to reduce the frequency and volume of Combined Sewer Overflows.
A grassroots train-the-trainer program on how to install, operate and maintain faucet-mounted point-of-use filters to protect for lead in drinking water.
Installing special toilets and urinals at a University of Michigan building to concentrate urine, sanitize it, and prepare it for re-use as fertilizer.
Director of the Master of Urban Design
Associate Professor of Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning
María Arquero de Alarcón is an Associate Professor of Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning and Director of the Master of Urban Design at the University of Michigan Taubman College. Operating at the intersection of architecture, landscape, and urbanism, her work interrogates the agency of design promoting cultural and environmental values in the agenda of urban sustainability. Her work is published in the edited volumes The Third Coast Atlas: Prelude to a Plan of the Great Lakes Region and Mapping Detroit: Land, Community, and Shaping a City, the Michigan Journal of Sustainability, Architect Magazine’s “Next Progressives,” PLOT, Green and Building Design, International Journal of Transportation, Journal of Transportation Planning and Technology, UHF and New Mobility. She holds a professional degree in Architecture and Urbanism from the Madrid Polytechnic University, a master of Advanced Studies in Landscape Architecture from the E.T.H. Zurich, and a master of Landscape Architecture in Urban Design from the G.S.D., Harvard University. She is a Spanish registered architect, an A.S.L.A. and an A.P.A. member.
María is founding partner of MAde Studio, a research-based, collaborative design practice with projects that articulate a range of design strategies operating across geographies, scales and disciplinary sensibilities. Through the combination of grant-funded research initiatives, urban design experimentation, and small, site-specific built interventions, MAde Studio’s work focuses in the advancement of design values integrating the knowledge co-generated with local partners, collaborators and residents. MAde Studio has garnered recognition with four AIA Michigan Design Awards for Playful Horizons, A Dozen Playgrounds, Eastside Recreation Center and Liquid Planning Detroit, an ACSA Faculty Design Award for Liquid Planning Detroit, and two Boston Society of Architects Citations. The work has been exhibited in the 2017-2018 Shenzhen-Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, and academic institutions like the University of Tennessee, the University of Minnesota and the University of Michigan.
Associate Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning
Jen Maigret is an associate professor of architecture at the University of Michigan, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, where she teaches design studios and courses in sustainability and representation. She was a 2006-2008 Cynthia Weese Fellow at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, Washington University in Saint Louis, where she also held an assistant professor position. Maigret is a licensed architect in the State of Michigan and a principal at PLY+ architecture, urbanism and design.
Maigret holds degrees in Biology (B.A. Biology, Hartwick College and M.S. Evolutionary Biology and Ecology, University of Michigan) and Architecture (M.Arch, University of Michigan). Her educational and professional experience within the fields of biology and architecture inform her design expertise and approach to architecture as a component of broader environmental systems. Maigret was previously a partner in the trans-disciplinary, collaborative practice, MAde Studio where she contributed to projects ranging from regional green infrastructure analyses and oversaw the design and fabrication of architectural elements within public spaces.