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‘Glass Mural’ office, retail building planned for Detroit’s Eastern Market

Glass Mural rendering.
Glass Mural rendering. (MVRDV)

DETROIT – A unique retail and office development is planned for Detroit’s Eastern Market.

A four-story building dubbed the “Glass Mural,” and inspired by the artistic expression of Eastern Market, is planned to be built directly across Eastern Market’s Shed 3, at the intersection of Russell and Division Street. Currently, the site is home to a two-story brick building that features a mural by local artist DENIAL.

Building designers MVRDV, a Netherlands-based group, is proposing “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 image, stretched around all four sides of the building.”

MVRDV’s design for the 40,000-square-foot/3,716-square-meter building comprises a stack of shifting blocks, which becomes a canvas to build upon the area’s vibrant and creative character. Winy Maas, founding partner at MVRDV, said, “the proportions of the blocks refer and connect to the human-scale of Eastern Market.”

Glass Mural rendering.
Glass Mural rendering. (MVRDV)

Operationally, Glass Mural will have a ground-level retail storefront, with three floors of offices dispersed throughout the two primary glass blocks with permanent artworks.

The third block will house circulation cores and access to the roof deck, which will be a fully occupiable amenity for office tenants.

Glass Mural rendering.
Glass Mural rendering. (MVRDV)

In slight contrast with DENIAL’s work on the first block, the second block 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 facades, the third block will feature a “flat façade finish” to create a canvas that will be ever-changing. It will provide an opportunity for different artists over time to come and paint murals.

Maas adds, “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. 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 facades will be produced using digital ceramic printing, a technique which MVRDV has considerable experience in. They previously used the technology in their 2013 project Glass Farm, where an image of a typical Dutch farmhouse was enlarged and printed onto the exterior of a new glass building in the heart of the village of Schijndel, the Netherlands.

It’s unclear when the development will begin construction or be completed.


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