Details and visuals of Glass Mural, an aptly-named office and retail building planned for Detroit’s Eastern Market, have been unveiled by Rotterdam-headquartered MVRDV. So far, the project, which, per a press release, “takes a new approach to preserving art and memory through architecture and technology,” has garnered some pointed reactions on social media. Glass Mural is MVRDV’s debut project in the American Midwest.
Encompassing 4,000 square feet across four stories, the building will be, as mentioned, located at Eastern Market, directly opposite the historic commercial district’s busiest and largest market hall. Dating back to the 1850s, Eastern Market, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, is the largest historic public market district in the United States at over 43 acres.
To make way for the new building, which takes the form of a stack of three staggered “building blocks” and will feature retail on its ground level topped by three floors of office space and a roof deck accessible to its tenants, a two-story brick building will be demolished. However, the “key redeeming feature” of the existing building, a large (and lawsuit-sparking) mural created in 2017 as part of the Murals in the Market program by Windsor, Ontario-based artist DENIAL, will visually live on. MVRDV plans to recreate and expand the mural, along with the old building’s brick pattern, on a glass facade that will stretch around all four sides of the structure’s first block. The mural-preserving facade will be produced using digital ceramic printing, a technology that the firm employed at Glass Farm, a 2013 project located in the Schijndel, the Netherlands. In that instance, the image of a historic Dutch farmhouse was reproduced on the exterior of a new, glass-clad building.
On the second block of Glass Mural, the same printing technology will be used to replicate a newly commissioned mural by Detroit-based Sheefy McFly; the exterior of the final block will feature what the firm calls a “flat facade finish.” Essentially serving as a blank canvas, this culminating block will be adorned with the work of a rotating number of local artists invited to create murals on the facade.
“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, founding director of MVRDV, in a statement. “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.”
MVRDV was tapped for the project by client FIRM Real Estate as part of a collaborative process with Detroit-based Architecture Talent Agency. Construction, headed by Detroit-based project contractor L.S. Brinker Company, is slated to kick off next year.