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True North selected as finalist for international architecture prize

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One of 2 finalists located in the U.S.

Photo by Chris Miele

While Detroit is known for its classic Art Deco architecture, it’s exciting for one of the new development to be acknowledged internationally for design. True North, a community of Quonset huts, has been selected as one of six finalists across the Americas by the Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize (MCHAP).

The award recognizes “the best built work in the Americas completed between January 2016 and December 2017.” The other finalists represent many different scales, strategies, and purposes.

Finalists include the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.; Teopanzolco Cultural Center in Cuernavaca, Mexico; SESC 24 de Maio in São Paulo, Brazil; Edificio E, University of Piura in Piura, Peru; and IMS Paulista in São Paulo, Brazil.

The finalists were chosen from an initial nomination of 175 projects, which were then narrowed down to 31 projects at an event in Venice in May. Sunday evening, finalists were announced at an event at Minoru Yamasaki’s One Woodward building in downtown Detroit.

True North consists of a series of Quonset huts of different sizes and shapes just off of Grand River Avenue in the Core City neighborhood. Spearheaded by Philip Kafka and Prince Concepts and designed by Edwin Chan/EC3, the huts offer live, work, and common space in a formerly vacant lot. The warm interiors contrast with the corrugated galvanized steel exteriors to form a development unlike any other.

Photo by Chris Miele
Photo by Chris Miele
Photo by Chris Miele

MCHAP Director Dirk Denison notes how the finalists can create a lasting influence for both architecture and culture. “MCHAP projects push forward the development of architecture as a practice, reshaping how we see and organize the built environment around us. They participate in the larger cultural exchange that is an essential characteristic of the Americas today,” Denison said.

True North is the first part of a series of developments along Grand River by Prince Concepts. “I’m interested in how architecture can challenge consensus; how it changes the way people live, sure, but more importantly how they think and feel,” says Kafka. “True North is my first significant development. Having it recognized as a finalist for the MCHAP is humbling and inspiring. I knew True North took hard work and thoughtfulness, but to be a finalist for a prize that “laud[s] works that recognize the altered circumstances of the human condition,” makes me think I might be on the right track... I’ve got to keep working!”

The winner will be announced October 10.