by Vatsala SethiDec 26, 2022
OMA New York led by Partner Jason Long has announced their involvement in a mixed-use arts and community project for two local non-profit groups in Detroit. The adaptive reuse project encompasses the transformation of a vacant commercial bakery and warehouse from the 1900s into a contemporary educational and public space for the local art community of Detroit’s East Village neighbourhood. The vision of the development nicknamed LANTERN, as envisioned by OMA, features 5300 sqft of affordable artist studios, an art gallery, 4000 sqft of creative retail areas, and a 2000 sqft courtyard as a vibrant community space.
Upon completion the 22,300 sqm complex will serve as the headquarters of PASC (Progressive Arts Studio Collective) and Signal-Return. “PASC and Signal-Return are both extraordinary organisations with a multi-faceted approach to community building through the arts. To support and enhance their ambitions, we are both turning the building in on itself and out toward the neighbourhood to bring a new density of activity and creative life to East Village,” shares Long in an official press release. While Detroit and Wayne County operating PASC is the first art studio dedicated to supporting individuals with developmental disability and mental health differences, Signal-Return looks after preserving and teaching traditional letterpress printing in Detroit. LANTERN aims to provide studio space, workshop, and a gallery for PASC’s artists, and an expanded platform to house Signal-Return’s hands-on workshops, exhibitions, educational events, and the sale of prints and ephemera by local artists.
The design takes advantage of the site, particularly an area of the warehouse whose roof was missing. A courtyard at the heart of the building, defined as the primary entry with multiple frontages, also had its end wall lacking. The design brings a new face of the courtyard by turning it into "a public, accessible gateway and an activity condenser". Designed to line galleries within, this space would reinforce its character as the building's public heart. Other programmes which include education, production and display spaces for the two non-profits will be housed within the existing buildings, community serving functions will be clubbed opposite the courtyard, along Kerchevel Avenue.
As part of OMA’s schematic design, the existing boarded up brick openings on the building’s outer façade will be strategically opened. “Operable windows,” as per the design team, “are inserted at the studios to allow for ventilation; gallery windows are extruded to become art vitrines; and larger openings offer indoor-outdoor potentials for production spaces.” Instead of forging a new pattern of fenestrations, OMA will puncture the structure’s concrete masonry walls creating over 1500 holes, and filling these with cylindrical glass blocks. The effect that this arrangement would be such that one could see subtle glimpses of the building’s activities on the outside at night, the structure evoking the image of a glowing lantern.
A collaboration between OMA and Downtown Detroit-based contemporary art gallery Library Street Collective, the expected completion of the project hasn't been announced yet.
Under the leadership of Jason Long and Shohei Shigematsu, OMA New York engages in a diverse folio of works in the Americas, ranging from urbanism and public realm to adaptive reuse and residential developments. STIR previously featured the firm's Audrey Irmas Pavilion in Los Angeles, designed as a cultural extension to the 1929 Byzantine Revival Jewish Wilshire Boulevard Temple.