Architect Edwin Chan Adds to Detroit's Flurry of Developments

The city’s new live-and-work complex True North promises residents privacy, affordability, and a sense of community.

(Photos: Chris Miele)

After enduring America’s largest industrial decline and urban decay, Detroit is now a symbol of hope. In the next few years, SHoP Architects will erect the city’s tallest building, the East Riverfront will be revamped, and the project for the Gordie-Howe International bridge will be completed. In this wave of renewal, True North, a nine-unit live-and-work development, stands out in a city meeting innovation. Architect Edwin Chan of EC3 adopted its architectural concept from Quonset huts—prefab steel units introduced during World War II—whose structural typology invites affordable construction, climate adaptability, flexible layouts, and natural lighting. The complex replenishes an abandoned site with residential and outdoor community spaces. “We tried to capture the beauty of Detroit’s toughness with the raw aesthetic in its design, while creating an inviting place for the neighborhood,” Chan says. By balancing the city’s built history with the new construction, and private spaces with social areas, True North offers residents sentiments of both hope and resilience. 

David Basulto is the founder and editor-in-chief of ArchDaily.

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