The gallery, located off of and accessible from a lively and “culturally redefined” downtown alleyway known as The Belt, is Snarkitecture’s first dedicated freestanding gallery and the first project working with a historic structure. The New York-based collaborative design practice is more known for its playful large-scale public installations like The Beach and retail environments, including the recently revealed Paris flagship store for streetwear retailer KITH.
Library Street Collective’s new space will officially debut this coming weekend with the February 27 opening of Light, an exhibition of new works from Hudson Valley, New York-based artist Sam Friedman and curated by KAWS.
As AN detailed last December when the project was first announced, a key design feature of the gallery simply known as “the portal” will serve as an attention-commanding link between the new space and The Belt. Running directly behind the L.B. King and Company Building and populated by murals and other artistic interventions, The Belt was also curated and conceptualized by the collective.
“We worked with the materials that were present on site—the historic brick of the building facade—and also played a bit with the ‘bricked up’ existing condition of the window,” Snarkitecture co-founder Alex Mustonen, who led the project team along with Clarisse Empaynado and lead Breanna Urquhart, told AN. “By treating the brick as a sculptural material, we were able to push and mold the opening to bring the exterior of The Belt towards the interior of the gallery. What appears as a concave excavation from the exterior reveals itself one to one on the interior as a convex sculptural form pushing into the space.”
“The portal through the facade of the gallery animates several aspects of Snarkitecture’s practice, but particularly the idea of working between the disciplines of art and architecture—the piece is both an art installation within the context of the public art program of The Belt, while also being a permanent intervention within the facade of the historic L.B. King and Company Building, revealing a window that looks into the gallery space,” Mustonen added.
Designed in the popular-at-the-time Commercial style by prominent Detroit architecture firm Rogers and MacFarlane, the L.B. King and Company Building was completed in 1911 and for much of its existence was home to a wholesale furrier. The six-story, white terra-cotta-clad building was designated as a Michigan State Historic Site in 1987 and added to the National Register of Historic Places that same year.
In 2015, Bedrock Real Estate Services and Curis Enterprises, a real estate development firm headed by Library Street Collective partner and cofounder Anthony Curis, acquired the historic structure. The group’s previous gallery space, located directly next door at 1260 Library Street, will be used as a private showroom and administrative office space now that the flagship is complete.
In addition to creating the new gallery’s signature alleyway aperture-slash-artistic intervention, the Snarkitecture team designed flexible elements including a display wall that doubles as a partition to create a “crisp, monochromatic envelope within the historic structure allows for the display and viewing of a wide array of artwork through Library Street Collective’s program,” Mustonen explained.
“The intent with the portal and the project as a whole is to create a moment of pause or wonder for people visiting The Belt and Library Street Collective, inviting them to look through this strange, anomalous opening and to explore the undiscovered worlds might exist within,” Mustonen said.
Sam Friedman’s Light will run through April 3.