Netherlands-based architecture firm MVRDV has designed Glass Mural, a one-of-a-kind, four-story office and retail building in Detroit’s Eastern Market neighborhood.
Situated just outside the city’s downtown core, the existing character of Eastern Market, the largest public farmers market in the United States, was an inspiration for the project’s design. With its colorfully printed glass façades that both celebrate existing murals and add new artistic works to the area, Glass Mural takes a new approach to preserving art and memory through architecture and technology in one of the United States’ most architecturally distinctive cities.
Glass Mural will be located directly across from Eastern Market’s largest and busiest market hall, Shed 3. Currently, the site is home to a two-story brick building whose key redeeming feature is a mural by an established, local artist DENIAL. MVRDV’s proposal, developed alongside co-architect Integrated Design Solutions, is to visually preserve this artwork by recreating the mural and brick pattern on a new canvas made of glass—combining a larger version of the mural with images of the building’s brick pattern as a single picture, stretched around all four sides of the structure.
MVRDV’s design for the 3716-m2 (40,000-sf) building comprises a stack of shifting blocks, which becomes a canvas to build on the area’s vibrant and creative character. Operationally, Glass Mural will have a ground-level retail storefront, with three floors of offices dispersed throughout the two primary glass blocks with permanent artwork. The third block will house circulation cores and access to the roof deck, which will be a fully occupiable amenity for office tenants.
In slight contrast with DENIAL’s work on the first block, the second one will present a newly commissioned mural by Sheefy McFly, one of Detroit’s top emerging artists. The building blocks and murals will make use of cutting-edge glass printing techniques to combine the colorful artworks with areas of transparency, providing windows for the shops and offices inside. Unlike the other glass façades, the third block will feature a “flat façade finish” to create an ever-changing canvas. It will provide an opportunity for different artists to come and paint murals.
“We loved the idea of the artworks that bring this area to life, and this building is our tribute to this character, eternalized through a printing technique” said Winy Maas, co-founder of MVRDV. “It allows us to interact with the spirit of the neighborhood in a way that is playful and unexpected. Our decision to do so with glass is also practical, as it allows us to incorporate windows to become a part of the artwork, not an obstacle for artists to work around. That enables a greater level of faithfulness to the original artwork that will be recreated, as well as greater artistic freedom for the new artwork.”
The glass façades will be produced using digital ceramic printing, a technique which MVRDV has previous experience in.