Press release

Detroit design honour a driving force for Dundee graduates

Published on 12 April 2021

A team of University of Dundee graduates are on the road to success after being honoured in a design competition to transform “Motor City”.

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Architecture and Urban Planning graduates Callum O'Connor, Joshua Speedie, Leo Räni, Daniel Duncan and Aidan Scott have been working at full throttle after graduating last summer, with their efforts steering them to success by receiving the ‘Manni Group - Power of Steel Award’ in a competition to rejuvenate Detroit’s waterfront.

Despite being unable to work together due to Coronavirus restrictions, the group formed their design studio, Design Outsider, to help accelerate their careers in architecture, urban design, planning, education and the wider design industry.

The team’s submission to the Young Architects Competition was the first design task undertaken by the fledgling studio, with the group already gearing up for further success.

“Receiving an award for our first competition submission is incredible,” said Daniel.

“We have always had an interest in the condition of Detroit and planned to study it further in some way once we graduated. This competition proved to be the perfect opportunity.”

Callum added, “Given that we did this remotely, competing in a global design competition has really motivated us to push the boundaries of traditional design approaches.”

The aim of the competition was to transform the site of the former Joe Louis Arena situated on the waterfront, considered key to a wider regeneration of the city. The jury included an internationally recognised panel of architects and experts, including Daniel Libeskind, one of the central figures in redeveloping the site of New York’s World Trade Center following the 9/11 attacks.

“Detroit has a unique heritage and the potential for a bright future,” said Joshua.

“This competition allowed us to create a design concept that respected its history while embracing a future as an international destination for business and tourism.

“A key objective was to create an inviting destination for all residents and visitors - one not isolated from the rest of the city centre - and function as a liveable neighbourhood.”

Design Outsider’s proposal included a large steel ‘wave’ structure, incorporating a rooftop walkway and a large public space underneath, offering facilities for entrepreneurs and community events. The slope of the design would encourage residents and visitors to climb the structure, culminating in an expansive view of the Detroit skyline and riverfront.

Currently based in the UK, the Design Outsider team hope to use this early success to expand into Canada to further grow their international presence and network of collaborators. The team is also currently working on a number of projects directly with the University of Dundee and others, along with continuing to compete in further international design competitions.

Callum added, “We want to work across disciplinary boundaries and use our education at Dundee to create new and exciting approaches to design.

“As a team we are always open to new ideas and collaborations, wherever that may take us.”

You can learn more about Design Outsider on the company’s YouTube channel.


Press Office, University of Dundee