The 20th-century tale of Detroit is often one of woe. Auto industry job loss, economic decline, and rapid suburbanization decimated the city and left it floundering, with a population loss of 60 percent. The blight of urban decay is just one of the problems facing the area and Detroit declared bankruptcy in 2013, becoming the largest American city to ever do so.
But not all is lost in Motor City as committed citizens and employees work to revitalize neighborhoods, engage residents, and redevelop the urban core, all while making sense of the new landscape.
Nationally acclaimed community designer and leader of the public interest design movement Maurice Cox knows a lot about developing bold – yet achievable – plans that become tools for civic discourse and empowerment, embraced by diverse sectors of the community. He is the director of planning and development for the city of Detroit, speaking at the Dallas Architecture Forum lecture Feb. 21.
“Maurice Cox has achieved a nationally acclaimed reputation as a community designer who incorporates active citizen participation into the urban design and planning process,” said Dallas Architecture Forum executive director Nate Eudaly.
Cox is widely respected for his ability to incorporate active citizen participation into the urban design and planning process. In his current position, he is in charge of the long-term vision for a redeveloped Detroit — improving Detroit’s neighborhoods, developing strategies to boost stable areas of the city with new business and residential development, and devising uses for the vast tracts of vacant lots and other city owned properties.
Cox was born and educated in New York City. He received his bachelor’s in architecture from the Cooper Union School of Architecture and was awarded the Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he has also served on the faculty.
Cox taught for Syracuse University and at the University of Virginia, which led to him serving as city council member and then mayor of the city of Charlottesville, Virginia from 1996 to 2004. Under his leadership, Charlottesville completed several urban design initiatives, including the passage of an award-winning zoning ordinance in support of mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented development; new infill residential neighborhoods and mixed-income, higher-density housing; and the design of a new, two-mile, federally funded parkway entrance into the city.
His experience merging architecture, politics and design education and his engagement of diverse sections of the community led to his being named one of “20 Masters of Design” in 2004 by Fast Company. In 2013, Cox was named one of the Most Admired Design Educators in America in the annual ranking by Design Intelligence.
Cox served as associate dean for community engagement at Tulane University’s School of Architecture and director of the Tulane City Center, a university-affiliated practice operating at the intersection of design, urban research and civic engagement throughout New Orleans. He has also served as Design Director of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
The Maurice Cox lecture will be held Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m. at The Magnolia in West Village, 3699 McKinney Ave. Reception and check-in is from 6:15 to 6:55 p.m. No reservations are needed and the event is free for Dallas Architecture Forum members. General admission is $20 and students are $5.