Each year the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood holds their ‘Jazzin’ on Jefferson’ Festival, a two-day celebration of music and community. This year, with the support of the Jefferson East Business Association and the AIA-Detroit Urban Priorities Committee, a new element was added to the festival: pop-up businesses and galleries in currently-unused storefronts on a one-block section of Jefferson Avenue. Two students, Lillian Kusmierz and Caitlin White, designed the GO EAST Welcome Center, and led the construction project, along with friends, family, and fellow LTU graduate student Andy Ondersma. For more about the team, go to http://www.juneonjefferson.com/go-east-design-team/.
The selected space for the welcome center was a recently-renovated ‘white box’ – the walls were primed drywall with OSB sub-flooring and the ceiling was drywall with exposed ductwork. This provided a clear canvas for Lillian and Caitlin’s design investigations. A particular challenge was the need to accommodate four diverse tenants during the event, as well as four subsequent weekends during the ‘June on Jefferson’ promotion. This group of tenants included the Jefferson East Business Association, D:hive, The Village of Fairview Historical Society, and a rotating schedule of vendors selling shelf-stable baked goods and treats. Working with such a diverse client group required the resulting design to be highly flexible, to meet a variety of user needs.
Lillian and Caitlin describe their design process, which “pushed our creativity and made us truly look at the cost in both time and labor of material. We knew we could easily obtain pallets for free from a local moving company, and worked with them to get 70 pallets delivered to Lawrence Technological University to experiment with the constraints and limitations of pallets. Until the near end of our process, aspects of program were unclear. This forced us to think intently on the aspects of flexibility of designing a space shared by 4 tenants. Would one need more space than the other? Would they have very separate needs or need a more defined separation from each other? By working with moveable partial height partitions designed out of pallets, we are able to build in flexibility for one program to take on more or less space. By using pallets framed in an upright manner, density or transparency can be metered by filling the pallets in with other pallet wood. By splitting a pallet in half, two ‘shelves’ can be made and framed into upright pallets to create units to hold goods for sale. The density of material that the shelves can hold can be adjusted through the spacing of the shelves.
Carrying on the cohesive language of pallets, we worked to create a gateway to define and announce the space when patrons enter. By enveloping the space with pallets, we worked to allow patrons to both touch, use and move under and through a pallet gateway. Illuminated with light, the gateway acts as a beacon and gives character to the space.”
In addition to the displays and spatial dividers, the design team utilized palettes to create furniture in the welcome center sitting area, as well as sidewalk furniture and planters. Color was introduced through distinct branding of logos painted on to the upright pallet walls, with the focus directed at the tenants and their missions. The primary rationale for the use of palettes was economic: As each design team was given a small budget for their pop-ups, Caitlin and Lillian elected to build as much of the space as possible for free. This allowed them to utilize the majority their budget to create carts, which acted a counters for the tenants to interact with patrons, as well as mobile promotional and storage stations. The carts are made out of Fastube, a durable and strong material often used in the automotive industry for carts and shelving. At the end of the event, the primary tenants were able to keep the carts as a ‘take away’, thereby reinvesting the budget funding back into the work and mission of the recipients.
“The process was challenging and extremely rewarding”, reflects Caitlin, “probably one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.”