Doxiadis Plans Detroit

In 1965, the Detroit Edison Company commissioned the Athens-based consulting firm Doxiadis Associates (DA) a comprehensive study of Detroit and its adjacent area, so as to diagnose the urban condition and propose growth patterns for future development. Funded with over three million dollars and enjoying the enthusiastic support of Walker L. Cisler, the Chairman of the Board of the Detroit Edison, DA prepared jointly with Wayne State University a prolific 3-volume study titled “Emergence and Growth of an Urban Region: the Developing Urban Detroit Area”

Doxiadis’ study abbreviated as UDA, resulted to an ambitious plan that unfolded at an unprecedented scale, “large enough to include dynamic changes in the foreseeable future, in terms of both space and time”.

The first volume of UDA (“Analysis”- 1966) was a detailed examination of the area that set the perspectives for the study by presenting an extensive description of past trends and an inventory of existing conditions. The second volume titled “Future Alternatives” (1967) started with the conceptualization of virtual regional configurations to conclude to a unique Concept-Plan, presented in the 3rd volume of the research under the title “A Concept for Future Development” (1970).

The UDA’s Concept-Plan was unquestionably a grandiose set of programs that envisioned a bright future for the area.

In the midst of UDA, in July 1967, Detroit experienced major riots that radically altered the panorama. The origins of this urban unrest were rooted in a multitude of political, economic, and social factors including police abuse, black militancy, economic inequality and rapid ghettoization in the city’s neighborhoods. Furthermore, the lack of affordable housing especially for black residents was exacerbated by misleading “urban renewal” projects.

Despite the thorough data analysis and the calculating spirit of UDA’s methodology, the XL planning scheme fell short in this changing context. In a certain way, what was said to be Doxiadis’ waterloo marked a new era for architectural theory and urbanism…

[excerpt from the forthcoming article “Envisioning the Past: Doxiadis’ Plan for Detroit and the future of the Great Lakes Megalopolis,” author: Lefteris Theodosis – images ©: Constantinos and Emma Doxiadis Foundation]


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