Swathes of vacant land populate St. Louis, but by next spring, one such empty lot in the city’s Grand Center cultural district will be occupied by a new dynamic structure that will serve as a gathering space for performances and public programming. Today, the
The structure proposed by Freecell consists of a platform topped by a canopy made of semi-translucent fabric shaped into adjustable funnels that can be arranged above or below the frame according to programmatic demands. The space will serve as a center for a variety of programming from dance to bike repair initiatives for kids. Lit up at night, the construction will also emerge as a visual landmark and “beacon” within the Grand Center landscape.
“In St. Louis, we were struck by the surprising polarity of the urban scape. There are zones and areas that were really de-populated post-war. We went in there and began to meet with these community organizations that were re-stitching and re-fortifying the people to move into the city,” said John Hartmann, creative director at Freecell. “We knew we needed to draw from a diverse radius of people to activate the lot.”
Hartmann and Lauren Crahan, the principal and founder of the winning architecture collaborative, are no strangers to the efficacy of spontaneous urbanism. They recently participated in the design of the exhibition, Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good, which earned a Special Mention from the Golden Lion jury at the Venice Biennial.
“As architects, it was important for us to see how people interact and inhabit it. Anything could be existing beneath the canopy but we knew that the canopy had to be activated by particular user groups,” said Crahan.
The next step is figuring out the logistics and execution of the installation as well as solidifying programming. The project is planned to open to the public in early summer of 2014 for a six-month period.
“There will be a lot of intense discussion with community partners about what they want,” said Hartmann. “We don’t want it to be just representative of a good cause, we want it to be good proper action to activate the space in a real way.”