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True North


Project Name

True North


7,530 sq. feet

Construction Cost



Prince Concepts


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Winner of an honorable mention in the 2017 P/A Awards

“I appreciate its lightfootedness in thinking about how to rebuild Detroit. By taking some of empty land and filling it rather inexpensively with a community program, it creates a beacon that would be great to visit.”
—juror Barbara Bestor, AIA

When it comes to rebuilding Detroit, there’s no lack of energy and ideas, both from locals and from designers around the country. The difficulty is making big-ticket redevelopment projects work in a city where grassroots creativity doesn’t often come hand-in-hand with deep pockets. And while the focus on creative solutions is certainly a plus, there’s also no guarantee that the outsiders coming to town to help lead the push today will still be around tomorrow. Los Angeles–based EC3 understands those complexities, which is why its design for True North—a 7,000-square-foot mixed-use project 2.5 miles away from downtown—is centered around an easily constructable and decidedly cost-friendly vernacular: the Quonset hut. Churned out by the hundreds of thousands during World War II, the prefabricated Quonset hut is a half-tube in cross-section, made from a steel frame and steel or wood siding. In True North, these old-school structures get a bit of a modern update: Radiant heating in the concrete floors warm the huts, which provide nine live-work spaces for artists, entrepreneurs, and community activists. The ends of huts are made from custom-steel framing around polycarbonate panels to improve thermal values. Along with the huts, the site includes gardens, a community pavilion, and parking for eight cars. Three pathways connect the site to the neighborhood, inviting the broader community to engage with the space. And most importantly, by relying on low-cost prefabrication, the project will actually be realized: EC3 hopes to have the project completed by spring 2017 at a cost of just $850,000.

Project Credits
Project: True North, Detroit
Client: Prince Concepts
Design Architect: EC3, Los Angeles
Architect of Record: Studio Detroit
Construction Administration: Reyna Construction
Project Representative: Above the Fold
Civil Engineer: Nowak and Fraus
Quonset Hut Provider: SteelMaster
Underground Work: Brown Derby Boys
Plumbing: Expert Master Plumbers
Electric: Willie Marshall and Sons
Model Photographer: Dimitri Newman
Size: 7,530 square feet
Cost: $850,000

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