APTI 2022 in Detroit - Isabelle Stern

Monday, March 27, 2023 9:45 PM | Tom Chmill (Administrator)

The APTI Conference in Detroit this year provided a sneak peak of the historic places in Detroit, opportunities to meet other historic preservation enthusiasts from around the world, and a focused crash course like no other.

There were several types of events throughout the week, and I took advantage of two field sessions, several paper sessions, and networking events. Field sessions were trips to different preservation-related projects and historic landmarks/places around Detroit. I enjoyed learning about the building-wide infrastructure modernization project of the historic Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse, or as the team called it, Detroit’s largest “Rubik’s” cube.  During this field session, the project team detailed the complex technical and coordination challenges they took on to upgrade MEP systems and new code-compliant stair well while maintaining a fully operational courthouse and not disturbing court sessions. We took a trip to the roof to see the new stair tower from inside the courtyard, and we got a beautiful view of the city (and Canada across the river). The attention to detail on this project was immaculate, and it was inspiring to learn about the dedication and creativity of the team. Later that day, I joined the group for the field session around Belle Isle, an island park in the Detroit River, that combines nature, history, and activity. Our tour guides discussed the history of several structures, site planning challenges, flood mitigation considerations, and the historic landscape of the park’s integration with the city. Among several stops was a trip to the aquarium which showed off unique architecture. The exterior of the aquarium has almost a cave-like appearance with stone carved resembling stalactites around the entry arch. The interior features green tile walls and domed ceilings with quite the array of sea-life.

The paper sessions offered numerous opportunities to learn about project case studies and a wide variety of topics. I particularly enjoyed learning about design considerations of flood mitigation strategies, including the idea of designing homes in high-flood risk areas to employ amphibious foundations and work with flood waters. I also spent one afternoon learning about music in the Midwest; each of the presenters engaged the audience with jazz, blues, and techno. These presentations explored sites in the Midwest associated with music heritage (e.g., Paradise Valley, the Muddy Waters MOJO Museum in Chicago, and techno in Detroit) and how music influenced several underrepresented communities. It’s not every day you get to attend a conference session that gets people dancing along in their seats; this was a great addition to the paper sessions.

APTI Detroit 2022 was a great first APT conference experience, and I am looking forward to attending the future conferences. The mix of topics, learning events, and networking opportunities provided a perfect blend to see preservation from many vantage points and get a glimpse at the extent of a community it takes to preserve our historic places.

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