McEwen Studio was commissioned by Century Partners and Fitz Forward to produce a design concept for the Fitzgerald revitalization project.  Following a review of competitive proposals, The City of Detroit selected Fitz Forward to redevelop the city-owned lots of Fitzgerald.

McEwen Studio’s vision for the project emphasizes appreciating the houses that already exist in the neighborhood by intensifying them from the outside. As outlined in the winning Fitz Forward proposal to the City of Detroit, this strategy combines external insulation with re-appropriation of local materials. Underneath the recent materials– aluminium siding or vinyl– many houses in Fitzgerald are sturdy houses built practically, often from simple robust wood.  McEwen Studio aims to highlight this practical sensibility of the houses in Fitzgerald and connect this to the Detroit of today, a vibrant majority African-American city with cultures of craft, celebration, and innovation.  Tying this together is the invention of a found architectural character of Detroit: Afro-Scandinavian realism.


When you enter the Fitzgerald neighborhood, you are not looking for a new building.  There may be a few new buildings, and you trust they will be lovely.  But you enter because you are already here.  You have been here.  You know these houses, dozens of them, and dozens more like them from here to the edge of 8 mile.  And as you slow down here, block by block, you see this city you know so well, but you see it differently.  You find yourself here a bit changed, without moving.

Afro-Scandinavian realism


= real materials, nothing faux


= streamlined forms


= accents of shine, sparkle


= materials that can be touched, organic as possible


= re-use that is palpable and evident


= using what is available


= turning necessity into adornment


= embracing work and the traces of work


= patterns built from aggregation


= abstraction


= keeping it real

In the Spring of 2017 a graduate M. Arch studio at Taubman College continued work on the Fitzgerald site with V. Mitch McEwen as a professor, speculating on the next phase of development.  These speculations are collected into a print-on-demand publication titled 99 Houses.  The site model created by the 99 Houses Taubman College studio has been donated to the City of Detroit, on view at Livernois Ave with the opening of the City Planning sponsored Design Center, summer 2017.