Detroit S.A.R.

The Land of the Chinese God of Wealth

China is once again one of the world's major economic powers with the blessings of its Cai Shen, its God of Wealth since ancient times. In the decades following reform and capitalist opening-up in the late 1970s, China's economy has developed at a remarkable rate, with most of the growth created from Special Economic Zones (SEZ). The God of Wealth was eager to globally expand the apparatus of the Chinese economic zones and saw opportunities in the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Detroit was a land of opportunities: low real estate prices and the Fordist test bed par excellence. Presented to the White House and the city’s emergency manager, the Chinese report highlighted the mutual benefits pointing in particular to the model of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (Hong Kong S.A.R.).

The evidence was undeniable and the agreement conclusive: In 2015, Detroit S.A.R. was established. The new region implemented looser policies on visa, immigration, investment, and taxation. Chinese manufacturing companies, which produce goods for international brands such as Nike, Apple and Coach, expanded their business overseas. Detroit S.A.R. quickly overtook Mainland China in economic growth rates: the American Dragon was born. Entire urban blocks were new real estate operations. Road signs were changed into bilingual Chinese and English. Chinese consumers rushed into shopping malls to buy organic food and luxury on sales. Chinese kids were sent to the region’s schools in preparation of their college study in the U.S. The God of Wealth was very satisfied that Detroit S.A.R. was the frontier of world capitalism.

Investors saw opportunities in sectors beyond the industry. They proposed to buy the art collection in the Detroit Institute of Arts, to change the Tiger Stadium into the Dragon Stadium, and the Fox Theatre into the Panda Theatre. The residents of Detroit’s suburbs had mixed feelings toward the new fortunes of the city. Though they benefited from the newfound prosperity of their metro center, they had a deep-seated fear of losing their cultural identity to these foreign investors. In their eyes, the dragon and pandas were scaring away the American eagle. In October 2023, a protest against foreign investors requested that the city’s important landmarks be moved north of 8 Mile Road administrative boundary. Tensions between Chinese investors and the residents of the suburbs worried the God of Wealth. “Such frictions could scare away capital,” he thought, adding “only a great can bring peace back to the region.”

In 2030, the landmarks were relocated. A border wall was built stretching the whole length of 8 Mile Road and wrapping around the city. To the north of the wall, the uprooted landmarks were connected to the wall as anchor stores. The Great Wall served to maintain the desired distance between Detroit S.A.R. and the suburbs all while housing the mutual dreams of American and Chinese capitalism. Within the Wall, the glittery malls also functioned as border crossing, factories and dormitories for local and foreign workers. A Homeland Security Subway allowed a most efficient borer crossing between the United States and China. The manufacturing spaces were exposed to the public of the northern suburbs as the image of a prosperous, spectacular, and transparent Detroit S.A.R. The Investors Brochure© featured photo-essays on the great expectations for the “employee-family” within the Wall. The Main Wall Street was the best-in-class shopping experience. With on-site production, the aisles are replenished daily - never out of stock!

In Year 2036, Detroit SAR celebrated the Year of the Dragon with the sound of firecrackers. Along the 8Mile Road, windows and doors were decorated with red paper-cuts of “good fortune” and “happiness”. Money was given in red paper envelopes. The God of Wealth, in the form of a panda, was the new mascot of prosperity for Detroit S.A.R. the deity that was capable of turning its cycle of rubble and iron into gold.

Network Studio, University of Michigan
Critic: Rania Ghosn 

2014, Honorable Mention, Fairy Tales Competition, Blank Space.

“Detroit S.A.R.,” Fairy Tales: When Architecture Tells a Story, 2014
“8Mile Baseline: A Dialectical Image of The Urban Crisis,” Rania Ghosn, Journal of Architectural Education, Volume 69, Issue 1, Crisis: 86-97, 2015

Copyright © 2019 Ya Suo
New York, NY