Edwin Chan / EC3
Detroit, MI, USA
Studio Detroit (Architect of Record)
Chris Miele Jason Keen
EC3 commenced by presenting the design utilizing a physical model to the City of Detroit’s Planning and Development Department—as the developer still needed to secure a much-needed parcel to complete True North’s .57-acre site. The site was secured on the first meeting and the shared vision for True North was to elevate the simplicity and prowess of the Quonset Hut form for how we live and work today, as well as to meet the regulatory codes and requirements for new residential development. Following a community engagement barbeque and several rounds of questions and answers, True North was green lighted by the community and the city to proceed into construction. Fully realized in less than one year, True North is a development comprised of nine rental residences and shared community spaces with over 30 newly planted trees. Located two-and-a-half miles from Downtown Detroit in a quiet, spacious neighborhood, it is pioneering for both where and what is being built. The strategic placement of the huts is driven by a need for openness and security, views and privacy, socializing and solitude. Each structure is assembled on top of a four-inch concrete slab with in-floor radiant heat, which is also the units finished floor. The end walls feature custom steel framing around polycarbonate panels that provide a higher level of security, natural light and high thermal value. Each interior is unique and designed to inspire different creative lifestyles in Detroit.
The developer of True North is Prince Concepts, an emerging real estate development company founded by a Dallas-born, New York City-based entrepreneur. Architect Edwin Chan and his firm EC3 were introduced to the client through John Patrick, the founder of the international architecture talent agency, ABOVE THE FOLD. It is EC3’s first constructed ground-up development. Detroit, its fertility, its flexibility and its open-mindedness, was the perfect context for this coming together to produce a project that has impact at the community/neighborhood, civic/city, society/national and digital/international level. “Before meeting Edwin, I felt that the ideas were strong but it wasn’t until he came to Detroit and presented his design proposal that I knew this project was right for Detroit,” reflects Prince Concepts’ founder. “He brought a unique vision that elevated and inspired our entire team.” Equally important, the team strongly felt that the project had to serve and respect the community, embodying a new idea for elevating the attraction and value of a place without isolating or bulldozing the context and people who make up that context.
Prince Concepts sought a visionary architect to transform the Quonset Huts from its preconceived purpose into a welcoming and hospitable design for contemporary living in Detroit. Open to the neighborhood, True North is creative development and community that has put Detroit on the map in a new way. Accessible from the street via three pathways, the strategic size and placement of the huts fosters a sense of openness and security, views and privacy, socializing and solitude. It also makes for a destination spot in Detroit’s ever-developing built environment. Once inside the community, pathways connect visitors and occupants to the eight huts (nine units total), gardens and eight secure parking spots. Each pre-fabricated steel Quonset Hut is assembled on top of a four-inch concrete slab with in-floor radiant heat, which is also the units finished floor. The end walls feature custom steel framing around polycarbonate panels that provide a higher level of security, natural light and high thermal value. EC3’s unit layouts–sizes ranging from 475 to 1,600 square feet–to inspire different creative lifestyles. Most of the units feature an interior polycarbonate “island” containing a kitchen, a bathroom, and a mechanical/storage closet. Above the island, a mezzanine platform provides occupants with a flex for any use, with a variety of creative calling True North home. Nationally awarded and internationally recognized, True North has successfully activated the Core City neighborhood with the developer since initiating five new projects, all of which are currently in design and construction.