In 1993, University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture Dean Stephen Vogel proposed a design center housed within an academic context. A Neighborhood Design Studio was launched, in which students learned the practice of community design by working with neighborhood leaders. Eventually, the studio evolved into a full-service architectural design center called the Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC), operating as a program of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture and Community Development. Now, the studio has a year-round full-time professional staff with a range of experiences and training. Each semester, they are also joined by 2-4 student designers who learn the practice of community-engaged design, working alongside staff and partners.
DCDC works citywide on a range of projects at different scales, such as architectural design, landscape design, urban design, neighborhood planning, infrastructure strategy, and community engagement. The studio believes that meaningful community-engaged design contributes to more just and equitable communities, ensuring that residents and other stakeholders have ownership in the decision-making that impacts their neighborhoods and spaces. In both the planning and design process, DCDC prioritizes participation from all involved parties, taking care to engage, educate, and promote equity in design processes and outcomes.
Since its founding, DCDC has worked with nearly 300 partners on almost 200 projects. In 2017, the center was awarded the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award by the American Institute of Architects for its embodiment of social responsibility and actively addressing relevant social issues. It has also been the recipient of the NCARB Prize in 2002 and 2009 and was included in the U.S. Pavilion at the 2008 Venice Biennale as a model of community-based practice.