Mapping the Detroit Food Swamp

by: Jordan Zuael, UM Taubman College

For Graduate Architectural Thesis, 95 ASB : Radical Exclusivity in the Food Commons

The thesis lives within and adapts the urban fabric of Metro-Detroit, bolstering and promoting the emergence of the Food Commons. This thesis is anti-tabula rasa, acknowledging the systematic injustice present in policies and organizations as well as the current intentional and community-driven efforts to promote food sovereignty in situ.

The constellation of actors and emotions that Food includes provides both extremely prescribed architectural modes and thinking, as well as immense human creativity, spatial adaptation, cultural expression, and feeling. The work takes advantage of the intense tactility and breadth of intimacies innate to Food and Food spaces, presenting a new exuberant and empathetic mode of
architectural design, one that enables the persons and producers within the urban fabric to maximize its usage and atmosphere.

The project operates on a variety of scales, from the creation of urban-adapting exclusive furnitures, to larger zoning and planning schema taking advantage of existing convivial Food experience in Metro-Detroit, such as urban farms, food trucks, etc. The scales and tactile nature of the work evoke the relation between a family meal and the larger infrastructural systems that govern
relationships and understandings of Food, consequently blurring the lines in order to dismantle preconceived notions, provoke systematic change, and spark joy and engagement of each producer within the Food commons.

The thesis works with each producer of the urban Food fabric and enables their own radical exclusivity to promote connectivity, exposure, and collective work.

Jordan Zuael is an architect/designer, most recently graduating with a Masters of Architecture degree from the University of Michigan Taubman College. My great-grandparents immigrated from Italy to Detroit, and my family has lived and worked there ever since – with my architectural thesis, I naturally followed suit. The city, food, and design have been my greatest passions, and I continue to be inspired by the rich history, tenacity, and passion in the Detroit community.

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