This African-American woman architect is bringing fresh ideas to big projects in Detroit


Chandra Moore lives off big, lively Detroit projects.

She placed a 23-foot kitchen island in actor Hill Harper’s renovated home in Boston Edison. She renovated a room next to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra into a wood-themed retail and lounge area. She designed the quirky concession stands on the Detroit Riverwalk.

Most recently, her permanent coG studio is helping to turn Selden Street into a Midtown hotspot. It is one of four companies involved in the $ 21 million redevelopment of the long-neglected street through Midtown Detroit Inc. From the beginning of November, the designs of her studio will be distributed to contractors who will set up joint offices for women entrepreneurs in the former Casket Building on Selden.

“We’re known as the go-to place when it comes to thinking outside the box and doing things that bring people together for new thoughts,” said Moore, the 39-year-old owner of a six-person company based in downtown Detroit and soon in Atlanta.

A building and redevelopment boom in Detroit and across the country has made many architects work.

What is unique about Moore, however, is that she is part of the only 3 percent of African American architects working in the US.

Moore sees her identity as an asset. “This is a good time to become an architect. The world is changing and women are ready to take responsibility and reevaluate even the most simple thoughts,” she says.

Retail space and lounge next to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra designed by coG Studio – Photo by Jason Keen
Saundra Little, owner of Centric Design Studio and another African American architect in Detroit, worked with Moore on the redesign of the TechTown Detroit incubator.

Little says Moore has many sources of inspiration. “She brings fresh ideas from all over the country,” says Little.

Craig Donnelly, TechTown’s chief strategy officer, says Moore’s designs brought the space to life. “At the time we refined our focus on the customer experience, Chandra and her team helped us create improved public spaces that better reflect the value we have for our employees, tenants and visitors.”

Moore’s father Walter Moore built an apartment building in Modesto, California. From the age of 6, she hung around his studio, learned drawing and blueprints, and followed him to construction sites. Her mother, Cle Moore, bought her copies of Architectural Digest to encourage her to pursue her passion.

The reputation of the Midwest drove Moore to abandon San Francisco, her family, the trams, the steep hills, and the thriving downtown area. She opted for a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Detroit’s Mercy School of Architecture. She liked the small, tight-knit college with a commitment to urban architecture. After graduating, she traveled to China, Italy and London to study the built environment.

Moore met her husband, Zelan Banks, in Detroit. You have planted roots here and are raising two children.

That spirit of creativity, coupled with the ability to meet deadlines and stay on budget, drew her to Jason Hill. The historic realtor who specializes in celebrity homes referred her to Hill Harper – he had bought the Fisher Mansion in Boston Edison for $ 1.25 million.

She worked for Harper, who also owns the downtown Coffee roastery, and wanted a modern, airy feel when renovating the old Tudor mansion built for an early automotive manager. She opened the living room and library on the first floor and floated the bookshelves on the second floor. With the help of civil engineers, she removed numerous walls in the spacious house with 14 bathrooms and 14 bedrooms.

The Junior League of Detroit has just completed its Designer Show House at Harper, where thousands of visitors viewed their architectural designs.

What makes her most proud, however, are the smaller assignments she does for her community. She designed a mind garden for children in Woodward and Grand Boulevard to reflect her love for children.

And at the Social Grooming Club, a barber shop near Wayne State University, she placed the waiting area with barber chairs in the center to reflect the customer’s value in keeping the business going.

“Social Club is one of my favorite assignments because … it gave us an opportunity to come up with an innovative way for people to gather in barber shops,” says Moore. “We offer some in kind for this type of project because I believe in entrepreneurship and community.”


Dusty Kennedy