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Vibrant New Space

Restaurant revitalizes Detroit’s surging and dynamic downtown district

Beacon Park Lumen Restaurant July18 1

At its peak, Detroit was the fourth largest city in the United States. But for the past 20 years Detroit has been experiencing a protracted decline resulting in severe urban decay and thousands of empty buildings around the city. In July 2013, Detroit became the largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy and it was declared bankrupt by the U.S. District Court in December 2013.

But, the Motor City is roaring back and being revitalized, and a Judges Award from the 2018 Metal Architecture Design Awards reflects that.

On the western side of downtown Detroit, a new restaurant building and new park have been berthed along Grand River Avenue leading into the center of downtown. The Lumen restaurant in Beacon Park is this urban revitalization project and new public space. Anchoring the emerging neighborhood, spurring economic development and providing a quality place for the community to be active in the city’s resurgent and vibrant downtown, this space interweaves park activities, live entertainment and social gatherings with the restaurant’s menu.

Owned by DTE Energy, CEO Gerry Anderson led the vision for the project. The Lumen Detroit restaurant, brokered by Iconic Real Estate and operated by the LePage family, has an eclectic craft menu, extensive beer list and al fresco dining. Its modern design and open, glass walls create a flexible floor plan that includes indoor and outdoor seating, a rooftop terrace and a sustainable green roof. Infusing light, energy and motion to create a distinctive gathering place with a circular, open lawn, the new Beacon Park is now one of the largest of any downtown Detroit park.

“The goal was to create a modern building that reflected its urban context and site history, public space initiatives, and the client’s mission for sustainable design and energy efficiency,” says Theodore Touloukian, AIA, president, Touloukian Touloukian Inc., Boston. “The entire process was exciting. As an architect it was a great opportunity to design a building and space that’s tied to Detroit’s history, culture and future. We wanted the building to revitalize an abandoned lot, extend seamlessly off of the public way along Grand River Avenue and flow into the park lawn. We worked closely with the landscape architect [livingLAB, Detroit], the structural engineer [Studio NYL, Boulder, Colo.] and MEP engineer [Peter Basso Associates Inc., Troy, Mich.] to design a building that is creatively integrated with all the professional disciplines.”

Design Award judges called the restaurant simple, straightforward, and very successful with an excellent execution and excellent design.



Touloukian feels the project is unique to Detroit because it provides a modern statement inspired by the city’s automotive heritage and the mid-century sculptural muscle car. The vehicle’s efficiency, compactness and beauty were relatable to the design challenges Touloukian faced in creating flexible spaces and the overall design intent.

The 4,000-square-foot building hangs graciously over the sidewalk like an asymmetrical fin. It's a striking piece of futuristic architecture that contrasts with the stately, castle-like G.A.R. building (the Civil War-era built Grand Army of the Republic building) across the street; a snapshot of new and old Detroit side-by-side.

The restaurant’s gestural, metal-clad cantilevered roof is its focal point. “The cantilevered roof makes a strong gesture to the historic G.A.R. building; respectfully tipping its hat and pointing towards it,” Touloukian says. “The cantilever extends over the public way to draw users into the restaurant, park and DTE campus beyond. The significant cantilever required metal materials that were lightweight and could flexibly adjust to thermal expansion and contraction. The tapering geometry of the building was a perfect fit for the metal panels. Large metal panels could be efficiently shop fabricated to include multiple folds, drainage cavities and field adjustment to meet alignments around the perimeter of the building.”


Mahogany wood was used as the dominant material on the interior ceiling, walls and exterior soffits to invite the public into the restaurant space and create connections between the interior and exterior spaces. Metallic-colored metal panels were specified with recycled content to balance the warmth of the wood.

Romeo, Mich.-based Liberty Sheet Metal installed 4-mm Reynobond aluminum composite material (ACM) panels from Arconic Architectural Products, Norcross, Ga., in a Reynobond R4300 pressure-equalized rainscreen system. The panels were finished in a Champagne Metallic Colorweld 500XL paint coating with an EcoClean finish. Riverside Group of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, fabricated 1,800 square feet of the ACMs in its workshop and then shipped them to the job site. The general contractor partnership consisted of Tooles Contracting Group, Detroit, and Roncelli Inc., Sterling Heights, Mich.

According to Jim Borgiel, president of Liberty Sheet Metal, the project had many geometric shapes, intricate angles and transitions. “It was a small but extremely complex project,” he says. “A 3-D model was constructed to establish the contours and angles with precise dimensions. Coordination with the other trades working on the project was essential. If any one measurement was off and a panel did not fit properly, it threw the entire project off schedule.” The tapering geometry of the building was a very good fit for the metal panels. Large metal panels could be efficiently shop fabricated to include multiple folds, drainage cavities and field adjustment to meet alignments around the perimeter of the building.

“The metal allowed the design team to fabricate and install a building envelope skin over a complex building geometry in an efficient, cost-effective and expressive manner,” Touloukian says. “It was applied across vertical, horizontal and sloping forms with control over patterns, drainage and joint detailing. This control allowed the team to create precise alignments with abutting materials, and balance the overall building composition with adjacent wood, concrete, aluminum and green roof materials. The flexibility of the metal panel fabrication techniques integrated fresh-air perforations required by concealed mechanical equipment, and durable edges for the exposed green roof edge gutter system, integrated lighting and slim line fascias.”

The ACM contributed to DTE Energy's sustainable mission by including atmospheric pollution reduction, utilization of recycled content, heat island reduction, use of regional materials, and reductions of cleaning and maintenance when using the low-maintenance painted finishes. The building is on track to achieve a LEED Silver certification. Also, “Thermal performance was critical to the buildings overall envelope and its pursuit of LEED Silver certification,” Touloukian says. “The design team implemented thermal breaks between steel members that were passing through the thermal envelope, hollow structural section (HSS)-filled members with spray foam insulation, and over-sprayed steel and metal decks to reduce thermal transfer."