Mark’s House Opens

Aug. 14, 2013

Flat Lot, Downtown Flint, MI

FPAP Statement on Flat Lot Competition Winner

For those of you who are new to our organization, Flint Public Art Project’s mission is to work with residents to revitalize the city using art and design, bringing activity to underused spaces, connecting people and places, amplifying the cultural life of the city, and helping transform the image and identity of Flint.

A year and a half ago, we initiated the project right here on 1st Street between Saginaw and Harrison with a few par can lights borrowed from Red Ink Flint, a battery-powered practice amp, and a projection art piece by Eric Hinds using an office projector borrowed from George Ananich at THA Architects to show how the city could be activated through quick actions, drawing people into the street. We’re incredibly proud that the project has come this far, and grateful for all of the support of our partners and for the welcome of so many Flint residents.

As a kid growing up on Franklin Street in the East Village in the 1980s, my sister used to like to go to a fashion boutique that opened in one of the storefronts downtown. Very few stores were open in downtown Flint back then, and I was captivated by this place where the owner had designed all of the clothing herself. I had never seen clothes sold anyplace other than the shopping mall; in this shop everything was specially designed. It’s that kind of one-of-a-kind experience that the Flat Lot Competition aspires to convey, an unforgettable memory of a place that connects people forever to the city.

On behalf of Flint Public Art Project, we’re grateful in this effort for the partnership of the Flint chapter of the American Institute of Architects. In particular, I want to thank John Gazall of Gazall Lewis & Associates Architects for coming up with the idea of a design competition for the Flat Lot, and Shannon Easter White of Fun Architecture for really embracing and carrying forward the concept of an innovative temporary structure that could be quickly built for summer events. We hope that this pavilion will enhance the public life of the city for all residents throughout the season and support all of the popular programs happening downtown.

The winning design, titled Mark’s House, tells the story of an imagined Flint resident, Mark Hamilton, whose family loses its home to foreclosure. The pavilion appears as a Tudor-style house suspended mid-air, reflecting the city that surrounds it. Through the sleight-of-hand of a narrow column clad in reflective material, the supportive structure disappears, making the house appear to hover aboveground. The rest of the pavilion is wrapped in mirrored panels, so that the surrounding city and the sky bounces off its skin. The pavilion is a literal and figurative reflection of the city it is located in. The architects write: “Mark’s house … reflects back the trees, the streets, the sill windows, and the midwestern sky, and most importantly, the people of Flint.”

Photovoltaic cells power LED lights, and a tank inside will hold up to 1,500 gallons of water, spraying of a cooling mist every 30 minutes. The pavilion, designed by Two Islands, a young London- and Madrid-based architecture firm, will serve as a stage for events, a lounge, a play area, a sun shelter, and a dance floor.

As a project that combines a critical story about Flint’s neighborhoods with a trompe l’oeil gesture that speaks of sublimation and rising above, the jury chose a project that it believes will resonate with residents throughout the city and visitors, bringing a magical experience for the entire area and symbolizing the emergence of a new city for well-wishers around the world.

And this project would not have been possible without the support of Mayor Walling, a national leader whose openness to new ideas is paving the way for a whole new culture of the city in Flint.

Stephen Zacks
Executive Director
Flint Public Art Project

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See images from the full list of finalists.

For guidelines and background information.