You walk by this space everyday. Maybe it's an alley, or a surface parking lot, or a shadowy nook under an overpass. You think to yourself how great it could be, filled with people and activity instead of sitting there looking all sad and sorry. It wouldn't take much, you figure, to turn this site into a really cool spot.

Architects and planners call these spaces the "missing teeth" in our urban fabric. As buildings are torn down for parking or empty lots, our streetscapes take on a gap-toothed appearance. Sometimes it's the smallest slivers of space that can make the difference between a vibrant, walkable neighborhood and a place that feels uninviting or unsafe.
“Mind the Gap” is a public ideas competition for Detroit Design Festival to generate creative new ideas for these in-between spaces in our city. Alleys, bridges, overpasses, sidewalks, storefronts, surface parking lots, vacant lots – any space that connects two places.

For the sake of this project, we're not looking for major in-fill development ideas. We're looking for small-scale interventions that could have a large impact. We're looking for simple ways to stitch Detroit's urban fabric back together.

For this exercise, we borrow the  motto of Detroit’s Green Garage: “Small is big.”

You need not be an architect or planner to enter this competition. All you need is the ability to describe a site and solution. Supporting images are encouraged, but not required.

Anyone can submit an idea online through the “Mind the Gap” website or in person at Bureau of Urban Living, 460 West Canfield Street, Detroit, MI 48201. Submissions are due Monday, September 12, 2011, 5:00 pm EST.

Submissions will be reviewed by a jury, and a $100 cash prize will be awarded to the best idea. A selection of ideas will be displayed and published during Detroit Design Festival (September 21-28, 2011) presented by the Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3).

“Mind the Gap” is organized by the lovely Claire Nelson of Bureau of Urban Living. For more information, email


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