Flint, Michigan was once home to GM, serving as a vital hub in the American automotive industry. But in the 1990s, it emerged as a bellwether for Rust Belt cities, plagued by financial mismanagement and an outsized foreclosure rate. This spring, the city launched a competition that asked architects to reimagine one of its many empty lots—and the ethereal winner was recently unveiled to the public.
The downtown Flint parking lot where the competition took place isn't actually "empty." It was once home to several Saginaw Street buildings—which were eventually razed—and later, a parking lot. But since then, according to the Flint chapter of the American Institute of Architects, it's become a staging area for all kinds of public events: parades, races, markets, and so on. In its own way, it's a vibrant public space.
So, the idea behind the AIA's Flat Lot Competition wasn't to make use of an abandoned space—it was to give the burgeoning public space a shelter and pavilion. "The Flat Lot will be a new center and symbol for the city," explained organizers in the competition brief, "an attraction for regional visitors, and a site that amplifies the many existing events that help define cultural life in Flint."
The winning design came from London studio Two Islands, which imagined their proposal—called "Mark's House"—as a monument to a fictional Flint resident named Mark. The house is wrapped in a thin mirrored skin of mylar, creating the illusion of a Tudor-style home that floats above the parking lot. Under its gables, an undulated mass of lights show the faces of 882 donors who supported the project. [Images via DesignBoom; Gavin Smith; and Jacquie Gagne]
Update: According to many in Flint, these photos have been altered—and many local residents are less than happy with the results of the project. More on the controversy is here.