The Retroit Project: A new Intergenerational Model for American Housing

Open Access
Miller, Daniel John
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Architecture
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Jawaid Haider, Thesis Supervisor
  • Scott W Wing, Honors Advisor
  • brush
  • park
  • detroit
  • retroit
  • intergenerational
  • architecture
  • design
Throughout most of human history in nearly every civilization on earth, people have lived communally with their families. In the United States, this has changed as a product of a century of incredible prosperity that corresponded with revolutions in transportation, communication, and mobility. Americans have come to consider independence as the ultimate virtue. Today, most families no longer live together in an intergenerational community. Young people are segregated at schools and in “young professional” apartments, while families with small children flee to the suburbs and the elderly are orphaned to special “homes”. The trend of living arrangements defined by independence has created a socially and economically isolationist society. The paradigm of unlimited and unstoppable growth that has defined America for so long has changed. Young people—theoretically well prepared to enter the workforce—have trouble finding jobs and drown under the weight of massive college debt. Middle aged families watch as their savings vanish with the declining DOW, mortgage crisis, and the ballooning costs of raising and educating a family. A growing number of elderly discover that their retirement plan will no longer be sufficient and that they can no longer rely on government social security. The natural response to social isolation and challenging economic circumstances is to reconsolidate the family unit, increasing interaction and lowering the cost-to-income ratio. However, with the massive dispersion of family and the increasing age segregation of housing options, people are finding that the American physical housing stock is ill prepared for this sort of transition, and there remains a unique stigma of familial “dependence”. The Brush Park neighborhood in Detroit is a case study of the fleeing wealth and personal relationships that The United States is facing. Once prosperous community, Brush Park is now essentially an urban prairie only a few blocks from the financial capitol of Detroit. While popularly defined by desolation, the area has recently seen fervor of grass roots community organization - a premonition of more to come. The intent of The Retroit Project is to create a community that benefits all generations by consolidating economics and fostering intergenerational interaction. Simultaneously, the project will serve as a catalyst in the grass roots urban revival of Brush Park, Detroit.