It's a small world in Detroit - like really small.
Like finish an interview with Mikiah Westbrooks owner of Brix Wine & Charcuterie Boutique and meet the architect leading the renovations and rebuild, that night at a party.
Known around the city as AJOM, Anthony Jasper is an architect by day and DJ by night. His work frequently blends his architectural expertise and passion for music. After starting his career in New York City, Anthony moved back to Michigan in 2014 to help rebuild Detroit (literally).
Need To Know
Who // Anthony Jasper
What // Architect & DJ
Notable Detroit Projects // Brix Wine & Charcuterie Boutique, Forest Arms
Website // Click Here
J'adore: How did you get your start in architecture?
Anthony: "I studied architecture at Pratt institute in New York. I first got excited about architecture from a class I took in my last year of high school. It was about the history of architecture and covered a little bit of history, a little bit of design, and a little bit of theory. Prior to that I was interested in pursuing a career specifically in fine art.
I started my first year at University of Michigan as an art student. I quickly realized architecture is what I wanted to do and a larger metropolis is where I wanted to be. I ended up moving to New York and getting a Bachelor of Architecture from Pratt Institute. At the same time I was really immersed in the city and the culture–its music and its art."
J'adore: What brought you to Detroit?
Anthony: "After I finished my studies in architecture which also involved a graduate degree from Cornell in upstate New York, I moved back to the city and worked for a couple different architecture firms. I learned a lot there but wasn’t satisfied by my depth of involvement with the projects.
I left the world of working in offices and started working on my own as an independent consultant. There was a large market to develop projects for sole practitioner architects while they sought out the next project. It was very much a land-on-your-feet situation because I had only a partial training from the firms, where I had been asked to do a small component of the design, and as such, lacked an understanding of the project as a whole, but I found great knowledge in these individuals, filling out my understanding of how a building comes to be.
Shortly after I started getting clients of my own in New York, I began working with a fabricator Jeffery Raynor, and his company ARC Fabrication. At the time he was doing strictly fabrication - no design work. We partnered and I opened a design department of his company. Over the next three years I learned how to take my conceptual work and detail it out for construction.
Basically all of those experiences combined went into the philosophy of my current practice which is working with clients who want to go from the abstract conceptual level and all its considerations, through the architectural design process, through fabrication, through the building of it, down to the final details and trim work.
At a certain point I reached a glass ceiling in New York, there was too much capital investment required to go out on one's own, and the demand that every square inch of building yield as much ultimate profit as possible really limited creativity and experimentation. Theoharis David, my mentor at Pratt, passed along the advise his mentor Paul Rudolph gave him some 40 years ago as he bid him well into the world: “Go where you can build." When he told me that, I knew the answer was to come back to Michigan, specifically to Detroit, and try to bring the philosophies and the work I’d been developing to this city."
J'adore: What has been your favorite project to date?
Anthony: "My favorite project so far has been Starvue Loft in Brooklyn, it brought together my interest in music and my interest in design and architecture. Starvue is a kind of magical dance music phenomenon there. There’s no bar, it’s not centered around a club drinking experience like so many places are. It’s really centered around an exceptional acoustic environment in which the highest caliber of music is performed on the highest fidelity equipment.
The owner Cecily Pinkerton and I worked together as two musicians with a vision to develop this hidden space. The only way to attend Starvue is to contact Cecily and receive an invitation from her. It’s a beautifully small venue, it holds 100 people. I got to test out a lot of design ideas I had brewing for quite a while. Both things that I had always dreamed of working with as a musician and performer, as well as ideas that had come from my architectural training and research. Acoustics were extremely important to the shaping of that space, and I came out of the experience with several offers from other club owners to bring my expertise to there venues. Incognito as Starvue attempts to be, it was selected by New York Magazine for their 'Best of' issue the following year."
J'adore: What projects have you worked on in Detroit?
Anthony: "An underground nightclub down by the river on the west side. A couple DIY music venues. I’m in the process of finalizing a private library for a lawyer in the West Village. Most recently, I’m completing work on Brix Wine Bar, a new establishment in Detroit's West Village neighborhood. It was such a great experience working with the owners Mikiah and Fran. When I first started the project, Mikiah’s design ideas were so inspiring and in-line with the vibe of the space, I based a lot of my designs off of what she already had going. We really worked well together to design a beautiful space. I’m excited for it to open in April.
I also worked on Forest Arms, I did a lot of trim work and finish carpentry there. It was an interesting project because it was a full historic rebuild. They matched the moulding profiles, the stair treads, the banisters and wainscoting - every last detail - to charred fragments of the building which burnt in 2008."
J'adore: You’ve been talking a lot about your interest in music, are you involved in the music scene in Detroit?
Anthony: "Yes, I've been DJing and playing drums for over 15 years now. I was a resident DJ at Starvue until I moved back to Detroit in 2014. Now I host a few different parties around the city and perform at different events. I host a party called Technoir with Manuel Gonzales known to the community as MGun. We’ve been doing this party for a little over a year now. It’s been at a couple of different venues. When it first started, the Grenadier Club had just opened and they hadn’t had a large scale DJ party in there yet. I was really taken with the owner’s early visions for the space, we booked our first three parties there and had a really wonderful time. Since then, we’ve left that venue and moved it for now to Leland City Club. It has a nice size space for the volume of attendance we expect and a brand new sound system."
J'adore: What is the Detroit music scene like compared to New York?
Anthony: "When friends of mine from New York ask me that question I tell them that my favorite difference is that there is a great appreciation for good music here and very little patience for anything less. No DJ is playing bad EDM or top 40 music in Detroit, the party goers just won’t have it. Detroit is the birthplace of so many epic movements in music - any imposter forms just won’t do. In New York there’s such a surplus of people looking to go out and have a good time that you can play them anything. They just want a place to go and party and so there's a lot of fluff."
J'adore: If you could revamp any Detroit building, venue or warehouse what would it be and what would you do?
Anthony: "I’ve always been fascinated by the McGregor Library in Highland Park. It’s such a particular facade. Rather than the details protruding from the building, they’re actually carved into its surface. With that space I would be really interested to see what it could be as a multi-venue performing arts center, and how the operation of carving in relief could be extended as a conceptual approach to the design of the interior."
Detroit is filled with unique people and stories.
Anthony's life as an Architect and dj- working on influential design projects and performing at the hottest clubs in the city- further prove the detroit hustle is real.
Thank you, Anthony, for taking the time to chat with me!