Sunday, May 26, 2013

Helping Hands

The Historic District Commission has, at last, issued a "Certificate of Appropriateness" for Spencer's, including the demolition of the northern addition, proposed (but not yet funded) rubber roof, living pallet fence, permeable paving system from reclaimed bricks, and overall renovation of the building. The City of Flint Planning department has also approved the plans from a zoning standpoint, so only one hurdle remains: building permits.

These submittals began in January, and since then, Spencer's has been granted awards from the Ruth Mott Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Flint, and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs - each to cover a number of repairs, programs, and installations. Each also includes a significant amount of organizing, coordination of schedules, preparation work, and deadlines which make it difficult to postpone work any longer.

Four students from the Metro Flint Youth Build program - an alternative school that teaches construction skills and gives a second chance to at-risk youth - have begun a paid apprenticeship at Spencer's (through Ruth Mott funding). Each will learn design fundamentals through a series of workshops that explore material, form, critical thinking, and resourcefulness - followed by design refinement, prototyping, and final production to be led by local professional builders. They'll begin with some straightforward deconstruction/construction tasks, and eventually work up to designing their own permanent installations. The work will largely be focused on reconditioning the exterior of the building while the last of the permits are squared away.

Anthony exposes a much more beautiful earlier porch roof structure.

Old, rotting pieces of lumber are trimmed to expose the still healthy cores...

....and Tim guides Chris is router-use to turn these strips into an ornamental drip cap to be installed around the outside of the house.

Katrina installs aluminum flashing around the perimeter of the building. Flashing is a method of waterproofing needed any time shingling is interrepted (to different patterns, above windows and doors).

Flashing and drip cap installed, ready to be painted.

La' Dundric finishes cutting and assembling the last remaining truss pieces.

Turquoise truss.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

New Life

As warmer weather approaches and administrative efforts begin to fruit, a new energy has begun at Spencer's. With the help of Flint Public Art Project, Spencer's holds a series of events as a part of the Free City public art festival.

The mirrored stair is opened to relieve congestion between the newly reunited halves of the house

University of Michigan: Ann Arbor design students install a responsive LED lighting system within the wall cavity

Musicians Frank Pahl and Tim Holmes play homemade instruments made from sewing machines, propane canisters,and bike parts


Der Vorfuhreffekt - a theater duo out of Baltimore - puts on a puppet show.

A crowd gathered within these unlikely walls, and - if only for an hour or two - the audience didn't see the place as one of abandonment or hopelessness, but of laughter and inspiration.

While these temporary events might seem insignificant or irrelevant to the larger structural and infrastructural tasks for the building, they're an essential part of the process. These gatherings are a gesture - that the building is still very much alive. They're also an integral part of the planning and design process that most architects skip (or do not know exists): a kind of testing of waters for unconventional activity, their spatial needs, and vice versa. And for a project which is seeking on-going funding, this goes a long way in painting a picture for investors and grantors.