Student Design Summit

As a part of the DIA Plaza & Midtown Cultural Connections  international design competition, the Detroit Institute of Arts, University of Michigan, College for Creative Studies, and Wayne State University invite student design teams to envision the museum’s future through the lens of CONNECTIVITY. The aim of this competition is to address the opportunity the DIA and surrounding cultural district have to connect with each other and with outside communities. Individual students and interdisciplinary student teams will develop cutting-edge tactics, prototypes, concepts, and designs that would better integrate the DIA in its unique geography at the heart of the region’s greatest collection of cultural assets.

What is the role of the art museum and cultural district in the 21st century? How do cultural institutions establish or reflect civic values? What tactics, tools, or designs can be developed to help these institutions better serve the communities around them? And where does public space fit into the mix?

Accompanying Image: Credit, Andrew Jameson,

The DIA annually hosts over half a million visitors, offers a host of programming for all ages, engages communities throughout Michigan, and holds one of the most thorough encyclopedic collections of artwork in the country. Additionally, Detroit’s cultural district is home to twelve institutions of culture and education that attract thousands of visitors to the district daily. These institutions also serve the neighborhood's many residents (longtime and student) in this corner of Midtown. Given these great assets, the DIA and cultural district are setting out to find innovative ways to attract new audiences and activate the often forgotten exterior public spaces between buildings. Student-generated design solutions will make the most of these assets while addressing the challenges around public space and the DIA’s role as an anchor institution for Detroit and our region.

Student teams will have the chance to work parallel to a professional design competition. Three professional design teams will develop conceptual master plans and, in January 2019, will present their designs to a jury of experts and to the public at the DIA. Students will learn from professional teams and key stakeholders, and contribute to a project that will transform the public space of the DIA and cultural district for decades to come. The student projects should identify a particular challenge within this context, and develop an appropriate and innovative solution over the course of a semester. Student teams will showcase their solutions in posters and three-minute-long videos, to be voted on by the jury and the public in January 2019.

Winning teams will:

1) Have their deliverables shared with the professional design team,

2) Be recognized at the student competition showcase in January 2019, and

3) Win a prize of $2,500.

Evaluation criteria:

- Applicability: Does the proposed idea address the current conditions of the DIA, district, city, and region? Does it undertake an innovative approach to the theme of CONNECTIVITY?

- Feasibility: Can the idea be built, programmed, and maintained within a reasonable budget? Does it take into account user needs, public safety, seasonal weather, visibility, etc. What scope does it address?

- Aspirational: Does the team’s concept make the DIA and cultural district a better place to visit, work, and live? What is the vision for the future of the DIA and cultural district?

Competition period: September 24, 2018 - January 23, 2019

Registration period: September 24- November 30 2018

Important dates:

− September 24, 2018 – 6:30pm to 8:30pm – Student Design Summit Kickoff @ DIA

− October 9, 2018 – 6:00pm to 8:00pm – The Future of Cultural Districts Symposium @ DIA

− October 10, 2018 – afternoon and early evening – Participation in professional design team charrette (optional but highly encouraged)

− October 22, 2018 – 6:30pm to 8:30pm – Perspectives on the DIA and Cultural Center (w/ stakeholders, chance to debrief charrette, & working period) @ College for Creative Studies, Ford

Campus, Anderson Auditorium in the Walter B. Ford II Building

− November 12, 2018 – 6:30pm to 8:30pm – Workshopping with Practitioners (Wayne State University location TBD)

− January 14 – 6:30pm to 8:30pm – Student design team showcase & celebration (winners announced, top 10 projects showcased) @ DIA

− January 23 – 9:00am to 5:00pm – Three design team finalists present conceptual plans to Jury & public @ DIA Rivera Court

Are you a Wayne State student looking to join a team? Click here

To register your team for the competition (deadline 5 pm, October 5, 2018), click here

To submit your final deliverables (deadline 5 pm, January 21, 2019, click here 

To learn more or if you have questions, write






Deliverables & Outcomes

− Deliverables can take many forms—apps, reports, design concepts, animations, models, performance, etc.—as long as they meet the above criteria.
− Virtual poster to present and share your project.
− Three minute video showcasing your deliverable and process.


- Individuals or teams of students (no maximum or minimum # of students)
- Interdisciplinary teams are strongly encouraged
- Team members must attend the Student Design Summit on September 24 2018 at the DIA
- Teams must register by November 30, 2018 at 5:00pm
- Team members must be able to attend regular events in Detroit between September 2018 and January 2019 (see above calendar) 


- Jury Prize: $2,500
- Public Prize: $2,500
- Top ten projects will be showcased at January 14 event and have their project posters printed in color.
- Runners-up will receive honorable mentions, but deliverables will not be showcased.
- All competing team members will receive certificates of participation.


Frequently Asked Questions

Click here to learn more about the main DIA Plaza Design Competition


- Detroit Institute of Arts
- Midtown Detroit, Inc.
- University of Michigan
- College for Creative Studies
- Wayne State University 



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