Danielle Aubert


  • the people who do this the best are professional artists who make a life out of applying for grants and residencies
  • a couple smaller projects, includingblank books that were made, paid for, and sold by them
  • center for abandoned letterhead (secured through microgrant funding)

Mies Book

  • went through many stages
  • initially came out of a desire to work collaboratively with Lana Cavar and Natasha Chandani
  • natasha had seen first hand, working with architects, how they pull things together last minute and her role was to make it look good
  • then realized she could make content herself
  • so they wanted to take control of the process
  • thought at first to make a simple 6-month magazine, something fast and fun
  • she works in Lafayette Park in Detroit
  • the magazine grew into a bigger project
  • trying to publish a magazine is really hard whereas a book is a little more concrete
  • during the process of applying for grants they switched to book mode
  • hardly got any outside funding to do it
  • spent a year-and-a-half applying for grants
  • felt like they wasted their time and felt naive about it
  • for example, they applied for grants that required that they already have a publisher which they didn’t have at the time
  • their publisher paid for the printing costs
  • got some money from the university where she teached
  • their publisher wanted to print in China but they wanted to print at a place in Croatia and the Wayne State money helped cover that
  • met in 2009 with a publisher called Revolver Press but they required them to pay for the printing
  • they were able to get them to write a letter for a grant they applied for
  • wrote to Princeton Architectural Press and they said they were interested
  • but the more they heard about Princeton, they realized they often say their interested but don’t go forward
  • they would have to pay for printing, there were serious limits to format, etc.
  • agreed to write them a letter for grants but would officially sign on as the publisher
  • they had also asked for money from the owners of the towers as a corporate sponsorship, but that didn’t work
  • decided to stop applying for grants and to just go ahead and make the book
  • fall 2011, they had a preview done; printed a copy in croatia
  • contacted a friend at Metropolis Books if she knew other publishers, but it turned out that Metropolis Books was actually interested
  • when they looked at the people who were getting the sorts of grants they applied for, they found it was serious Mies scholars and architects
  • realized that they were out of their expertise
  • bulk of their expenses was in flights for Lana to come from Croatia
  • never made a magazine version of it, but they had the proposal they were circulating
  • the thing that’s ultimately useful is producing narrative about your project
  • shaping that initial text you repeat is useful and very important
  • helps you to organize your thinking

Is there something about Detroit that bring this work out in you?

  • before she moved to Detroit she didn’t do projects about place really
  • but when she got there she felt callous about doing formal projects like her Excel book
  • a city that you have to confront in a way; forces to confront the effects of late capitalism

Is the Van de Rohe book a comment on that?

  • felt sheepish about living in Lafayette Park, since as an artist in Detroit you can have a huge property, whereas she’s living in a really manicured controlled place
  • while she was there she started to hear that Lafayette Park wasn’t really Detroit
  • but she began to take issue with that, because the neighborhood is one of the most racially integrated neighborhoods in the city
  • felt like it was important to show that there’s actually people living in Detroit, countering the “ruin porn” images that were bandied about
  • also it was unusual to see this German architect’s work existing in this majority-black city

Is it a model for what could be or could have been? Would the Corbu vision have been good for Detroit?

  • the planner was a communist who was actually blacklisted
  • the place demands a kind of political agency
  • the people who lived there tend to get very involved in the neighborhood and city politics
  • because it’s Detroit and values are so low, the modernist vision isn’t quite as out of reach, though the property is still somewhat expensive to build

Could you speak to your relationship with architects?

  • one of our strengths as graphic designers is to take content and put it in a form tht everyone can access
  • they were contacted by architects and gave talks at architecture place, yet they felt out of place in those venues
  • but the architects told them that architects can’t really make a book like that and appreciated how it humanized the subject-matter

It seems like you made the book speak specifically to the people who live in Lafayette Park. There’s a real beauty in speaking from the vantage point of a non-specialist. It says in form what you want to say in content.

  • wanted to involve all kinds of people
  • as graphic designers you can figure out ways to involve them
  • they had a neighbor who archived a lot of things and they brought that into the project
  • designers can make things seem “official” or “polished” or “accessible”
  • but what happens when you’re coming to a place from the outside?

Do you feel like there’s a finite number of designer-friendly grants or did you have to look to places that usually wouldn’t give grants to designers?

  • applied for an artist fellowship recently in Detroit where two years ago she wouldn’t have felt comfortable
  • these things tend to be open-ended so there’s oppotunities there for designers
  • internal grants at Wayne State, IREX travel grants, residencies (you go and work on your project intensively somehwere)



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