Interstitial Playground

Michigan Theater's Interstitial Performance Space


Thesis Statement


Detroit is on its way somewhere—whether down or up is debatable and perhaps not verifiable. But the city is so good at getting in-between that it doesn't matter; and it is in this interstitial space and the space of the ruin that Detroit leverages its peculiarity into its own odd future. In particular, Michigan Theater in downtown already does this by synthesizing typologies that are nonsense to one another: theater and car-park. This project looks to turn this cycle on its head again—re-injecting performance space into the car-park-former-theater. The existing ruin, which is a direct reflection of the city, is used as an exploration tool for methodologies, process, and performance. Strategies of voiding and filling compound particular in-between's amongst and against one another to design a new performative envelope for Detroit's Michigan Theater.


Programmed Elements and Injection


The Interstitial Playground is a self-contained animal that occupies the structure of the Michigan Building. The Northern street side wall of the theater space is striped of the unnecessary masonry units leaving just the bare column and cross units that support the dome and Roof Trusses. The next phase consists of voiding through to the unoccupied units within the main 13 story building. This process opens new shared circulation paths between the theater/ parking space to the units. The interaction of these two phases is done through an elaborate catwalk system which provides connection through the spaces and supports new programmed areas. To keep with the existing nature of internalizing programs, A giant curtain is fitted to the north street side structure to conceal the interior spaces. Moments of the Curtain are broken allowing the catwalks and lounge spaces to punch through giving the public visual cues of the Internal playground.  These processes are done to injected a final program of a Dance Academy/ Performative Space into the Michigan Building. This injection interrupts the voiding and structural modifications through the catwalk system and roots its academy/ studio space, classrooms, bar/ lounges, and offices within the building portion. (There are some office spaces that will need to be relocated to accommodate for the addition of open studio spaces. These offices will be moved to the other abandoned section of the building.)


The Stage is Set


The secondary action of the performance exists within the theater space above the car park. There is 3 suspended platforms above the car park, one main stage directly in front of the theater seating, and 2 secondary stages that parallel the side walls of the theater. The main stage is fixed , but the other two stages are connected to a pulley system allowing the movement of the stage to decent close to the top of the cars and ascend as high as the dome ceiling. The three stages are connected through a secondary catwalk system that allows for the change in elevation.


The Detail


The performance space becomes a performative areal piece that acts as a prop to the Performances within. Complimenting the movements of the Dancers and platforms is the Lighting and spatial dividers in the space. The building is fitted with 7-axis robotic arms, similar to those used in manufacturing within the automotive industry. These free movement arms serve as the main lighting system for the performance allowing for further control over the atmospheric qualities of the performance. The second robotic arm system in the space is a series of three 11-axis specialty arms which hold 3 independently controlled screen systems. These screen systems can be adapted to any performance as a way to increase the spatial reality of an act. The can be combined together to form a single compound envelope.




The car-park-former-theater turns into a combined performative center of movement, art, and architecure. The spatial reality of the Michigan Theater is once again repurposed, realized through auto, industry and human actions, making the theater another conversion of Detroit's complex existence: even though the intent of this project is not to focus on such topics, but using them as contextual guidance to Architectural Design. The conversation of Detroit's future is up to the political aspirations of the city's residents and leaders.

Degree Project

Instructor: Berenika Boberska

Instructor: Mark Stanley

All work and Images © by Jeff Moro. Usage and distribution is strictly prohibitive without my consent.