Fostering Community Engagement in Fitzgerald through a Public Art Installation Collection

Yunyang Ma, Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning

Collaborators: Yu Zhang, CoE; Huiyuan Xue, Taubman

Faculty Consultors: Robert Goodspeed, Associate Professor, Taubman; Branko Kerkez, Associate Professor, CoE


Fitzgerald, in northwest Detroit, is historically rich but has faced economic setbacks leading to urban blight. Still, its dedicated residents retain strong community pride. Community engagement is key to revitalizing neighborhoods like Fitzgerald, ensuring residents have a say in redevelopment. In Detroit’s context, this holds profound importance due to its history and revitalization efforts. Art installations in Fitzgerald can enhance community engagement, reflecting its identity and sparking discussions about its journey, fostering shared ownership and commitment among locals.


In this project, we intend to build an interactive installation to encourage community engagement and to gather information to analyse the participation conditions and their engagement preference. Installation for engaging: Fitzgerald boasts a rich tapestry of history deeply rooted in collective farming. As a testament to this spirit, our project aspires to craft an urban space that not only reveres this unique character but also anticipates its dynamic future.

Design Vision: Our intent is to fashion a three-installation cluster, allowing residents to collectively curate and manage their shared space. This approach not only pays homage to the community’s farming history but also provides a versatile platform for social interaction, recreation, and education.

Dynamic and Movable: Understanding the changing needs and aspirations of the community, most elements of our installation are designed to be movable. This feature offers residents the flexibility to reconfigure the space according to their needs, ensuring that it remains relevant and engaging across different times and occasions.

Anchoring the Past and Present: While mobility is a key feature, the installation will also incorporate fixed components that serve dual purposes. These elements will act as stable landmarks within the landscape, ensuring structural integrity and continuity. More than that, they are envisioned as representatives of Fitzgerald’s local culture, bridging the past’s traditions with the present’s aspirations.

Installation design criteria: Culture and history related Accessibility Ease of assembly Lightness and stableness. Support from both Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and the library will be included to fully evaluate the criteria we meet and miss. Instructors from both may help us to build a better physical model.

Sensor-based interaction: It is designed to use sensors to create an interactive environment: Proximity sensory and pressure sensor may be included in this project. Proximity sensors are to change colors as people approach. It is to installed at the edges of each installation block to attract people to come and touch those installations. Pressure sensors are installed at the junction of each blocks. This is to record the connection methods and the potential shapes that the residents were built. It is a very straightforward way of recording the built models and to analyse residents’ spacial preference.

Data justice: In our commitment to fostering a data justice environment, we will conduct interviews and surveys at three critical junctures: before, during, and after the design phase of our installation. This approach ensures that residents can actively interpret and articulate data from their own perspectives, minimizing biases and the potential for misrepresentation stemming from preconceived notions. Our focus aligns primarily with social justice, wherein we examine the distribution of resources and opportunities among various segments of the population.

Team Members and Roles

Yunyang Ma (Leader), Candidate for Master of Architecture

Yunyang is responsible for the design and fabrication of the art installation, project management, and data analysis of the feedback of this project. Currently pursuing her Master’s in Architecture, Yunyang combines academic knowledge with hands-on experience in the field. She collaborated with Prof. Aditi Verma on an Energy Equity research project and is also working towards obtaining a Certificate in Urban Informatics. She is now working in Prof Tszyan Ng’s thesis studio on concrete fabrication.

Cirilla Xue (Team member), Candidate for Master of Urban Design

Cirilla will play an integral role in community surveys, engagement research, design of the installation, documentation, and finance. As a current Master’s student, Cirilla brings hands-on experience in urban design and urban planning to the team. She recently completed an internship at Smith Group and has a keen interest in community engagement projects, underlined by her research endeavors within Detroit communities.

Yu Zhang (Team member), Candidate for Master of Engineering

Yu will contribute to the digital technology, sensory design fabrication and data collection. Currently studying in embedded system, Yu is now interesting about the sensor technology and PCB design.


  • A community engagement report with data analysis
  • Installation design drawings, technical construction drawings and design rendering
  • Sensor design diagram and principles
  • Installation instruction brochure for local residents
  • Built-on-site art installation with prefabricated plywood panels, a cluster of 3 blocks
  • A data set of the interaction
  • A data analysis report and final project presentation