Detroit’s ‘Tabula Futura Imperfecta’

Claire Leavengood-Boxer
University of Michigan, Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning
Networks Studio
Faculty: Jen Maigret (website), Julia McMorrough (website), Clark Thenhaus (website), Claudia Wigger (website)


Theorist Paul Virilio argues that “every invention contains its accidental demise, converting the accident from an unpredictable uncertainty to the accident waiting to happen.  The train’s invention was, therefore the simultaneous invention of the derailment.  Extending to the city, a master plan contains its variance, an architectural spectacle creates its degraded copy, a plant prefigures its closure… the accident presents, at least in the city, the opportunity for another invention.  In theory, then, the accident holds the kernel of reinvention.”  This, which Virilio goes on to define as the ‘Tabula Futura Imperfecta’, represents a contrary approach to the ‘tabula rasa’.

Virilio’s Tabula Futura Imperfecta becomes an unconventional means for looking at Detroit.   Vacant sites are no longer defined as failed entities, but rather seen as a temporal location amidst a perpetual rise and decline of the site.  The state of ‘failure’, as Virilio declares, is merely an entity’s kernel for reinvention.

In this study, the church, the library, and the school are archetypes for sites which exist in areas of Detroit that are projected to incur increased populations from neighboring blighted areas. Each site remains in its own temporal cycle of rise and decline, however each may intersect, interact, and interweave with one another and thus enable seemingly atomized tap-in communities to exist within a greater network of the city- relationally, ephemerally, and physically.




Related Post

Leave a Reply