The Packard Belt by JGCH Architects

JGCHImage courtesy of Paul Hitz

The Packard Belt by JGCH Architects

The Packard Automotive Plant in Detroit, a once producer of luxury cars, was completed in 1911 and closed its doors in 1958, subsequently falling into ruin and becoming a symbol of the city’s downfall and financial crisis. The call for an International Competition titled Reanimate the Ruins, aiming to design, master plan and update the complex was immediately fascinating.

JGCHImage courtesy of Paul Hitz

The Packard Factory ruins are buildings in which cars were born. By thinking of this original situation, the history of the relationship between the car and the building became central to the project’s narrative. At 3000 feet long, the building does not relate to the surrounding city blocks and will always be viewed as a barrier. By dividing the larger volume into smaller buildings, we not only reduce the scale to a contextually sensitive one but also enable porosity across the buildings and the possibility of cross-programmatic interaction.

JGCHImage courtesy of Paul Hitz

Despite the car’s role in creating sprawl and destroying Detroit’s city center, it was impossible to treat it as an irrelevant part of the architecture in this specific case. The created serpentine belt that folds and meanders through the existing structures is seen as a way to stitch together all the resulted smaller scale buildings. It creates the grander gesture needed for a cohesive master plan.

JGCHImage courtesy of Paul Hitz

The form was inspired by the regenerative power of the serpentine belt found in car engines, which provides and unifies different components into a holistic functioning system. The cultural belt in the project unites the many disparate programmatic elements as well as it generates the high social and cultural voltage for a successful community.

more. www.jgch.org

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