Blog: Courtney Piotrowski

New urbanists are salting cities with temporary-to-permanent gathering places. Courtney Piotrowski, a founder of Detroit landscape architecture firm livingLab, drills chair bombing and other gorilla placement tactics into our heads.

A Possibilities How-To

Since we opened our doors on January 3rd, livingLAB has struggled to figure out how best to get involved and support our city.  We continue to ask ourselves the same questions:  What is the best use of our talent and resources?  How can we make a marked difference in the public spaces and places throughout Detroit?  What is the appropriate commitment we can make to a non-profit or community group given our responsibility to our clients and our business?  Should we spearhead an effort all our own or seek out the perfect partner?

Detroit might have the highest per-capita numbers of non-profits, private foundations and community organizations in the world.  I could overwhelm you with a list of them here.  If you are at all familiar with Detroit you've at least heard of the most successful of these groups:  The Greening of Detroit, Detroit Community Initiative, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, for example.  There are also smaller organizations – folks like the Detroit Dog Park and our neighbors here in the L.B. King Building, the Youth Development Commission – are off the mainstream media's radar.  How do we support them?  How do we make our mark downtown in a time when so much good is already being done? How can we make sure all of our efforts work together for the good of Detroiters?

It is a hard question to answer.

We've attended meetings with the Detroit Dog Park folks.  We sponsored the Michigan Association of Planning Student Conference here in the city. We've contemplated installing tables and chairs outside our office during the summer months. (Perhaps we will be the first "chairbombers" in Detroit?) We're currently marinating the idea of designing and installing a guerilla wayfinding system in and around our neighborhood. That's our idea of the week right now – but these change quickly. There's a mark to be made and good to be done and we're looking for our best opportunity.

Here's what I do know. No matter what direction we decide to go, we just need to get moving. Get moving toward something positive. Create our own possibilities. That is truly what's great, and overwhelming, about being a small business in Detroit right now.