Motown Center


The Motown Center constitutes a new building type—a hybrid of museum, entertainment center, and education facility for an important cultural legacy. The proposal is intended to have a very clear and distinctive image—a strong, recognizable iconic presence in the city, befitting the importance of Motown in the history of Detroit.

In part, because of the origins of Motown in a domestic space, the Center is organized much like a large family house. The driveway is termed the Main Drag, a place like no other ever built and an homage to the role that cars played in Detroit’s culture. Covered by a cantilevered canopy, the Main Drag is the Center’s own street, which can be enclosed by a curtain of metallic mesh. A continuous glass front bends inwards towards the main door, which is flanked by a restaurant, cabaret, and club along with the Center’s bookstore. The vestibule—carpeted, upholstered and curtained—softly ramps down towards the lobby, a space domed by an irregular conical shape crowned with an elliptical skylight and leading to the Center Stage. This sequence of spaces creates a continuous public promenade that clearly structures the life of the building.

Again, like in a house, the second floor is centrally organized. The upper level of the lobby provides convenient access to an immersive theater, a sound studio, the education areas and administrative/curatorial offices, as well as to the bar/balcony over the cabaret and a viewing balcony over the Center Stage. The third and fourth gallery floors consist of completely flexible, column-free space, interconnected by a double-height room oriented towards Downtown Detroit. On the east side of the fourth floor, there is a similar space, containing a telescope fixed on the view of the House at 2467 West Grand Boulevard, the house where Motown began. The exterior of the volume containing these galleries is wrapped with perforated metal sheets displaying large-scale images of Motown’s artists and founding personalities.

Year: 2003
The City of Detroit
Detroit, MI

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