Letting light in

"It's been a long time since Detroit has made any statement in architecture," says Andrew Zago, who splits his time between here and in Manhattan, where he directs City College of New York's architecture master's program. And he thinks a renovation, no matter what scale, is also a statement about what the city should be. With that spirit, Zago, MOCAD's architect, plans to bring daylight into the Depression-era industrial building and give it a strong presence on Woodward Avenue.

But he wants to keep the space looking like a warehouse, with some of the old fixtures. His idea is a form of historic preservation, but not in the way we usually think of it. "This isn't some amazing Albert Kahn factory," Zago says. "In this space, there are layers of cut-and-patch on every single surface, with windows filled in or taken out in weird places." With the introduction of skylights and more windows, his design will be one more layer of history.

Zago's other projects in the metro area include a pavilion on Jefferson Avenue for Greening of Detroit and a Korean Presbyterian church in Southfield. He worked in Los Angeles but made the decision to come back to Detroit in the mid-'90s because rebuilding a city is a rare opportunity.

"In Chicago, after the great fire, they invented the skyscraper. A group of people rolled up their sleeves and thought with the vision we need," Zago says. "Detroit has to figure out what happens after the auto industry. If there isn't a vision at the top, you do your part with smaller projects."

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