Former GM plant inspires students in SNRE Design Studio course

Hundreds of acres adjacent to a former GM plant are serving as the design canvas this year for a group of University of Michigan graduate students. Their assignment: create plans that address the ecological and property management dynamics of a landscape in transition from a past industrial use to an uncertain future.

The acreage is part of a larger 700-acre former General Motors facility adjacent to the Saginaw River on the northwestern edge of Saginaw, Mich. The course work concludes in early spring, when students present drawings and concept plans that present scenarios for 2015 and 2027. The class, "Metropolitan Design Studio: Design in the Dynamics of Urban Landscape Recovery," is taught by Joan Iverson Nassauer, a professor of Landscape Architecture at U-M's School of Natural Resources and Environment. The broader purpose of the class is to prepare students to envision how urban places can recover í¢â‚¬“ and their inhabitants can thrive í¢â‚¬“ in the context of fundamental economic shifts and emerging environmental legacies.

The curriculum pushes students to think beyond distinct categories of brownfields and greenfields, open space and developed land and high density and low density and to instead envision new forms of development across scales in metropolitan systems. The resulting designs will serve as cues to the future to be acted upon by todayí¢â‚¬â„¢s citizens.