Minnesota’s current weather is a lot like Berlin in a typical winter, said two visiting architects. And the arts scene, at least around here, is warmer [my word], more “normal in a good way” than in their part of Europe.
Roberta Jurčić and Jolene Lee, two of a team working on Midway Contemporary Art (MCA) were here to check out the site transformation underway at 1509 Marshall St. NE, look at other buildings in the area and present a short film seeking to break a cycle of real estate speculation that will launch soon in Europe.
Their company is b+ (website bplus.xyz) and the team of five includes Brutalist architect Arno Brandlehuber (https://slow
ness.com/journal/arno-brandlhuber/). An example of his work is an adaptation of the former St. Agnes church in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district into the art exhibition space of the König Gallery.
Built in 1963, the Marshall Street building was a two-story limousine garage with a ramp leading to the second concrete floor and a garage door on ground floor that a most recent tenant, Fletcher’s Ice Cream, could leave open on warm days. The most recent owner, Kirke Designs, replaced the ramp with a staircase, and MCA had it removed altogether, leaving a shard by which to remember the past.
MCA held a few exhibitions and events in the space while figuring out what to do with it. Neither level’s ceiling height was high enough to exhibit large works. Passersby may have peered in the window a few months ago to see the ground floor gone, exposing dirt trenches for huge cages of rebar. Executive Director John Rasmussen explained that when they decided to remove some of the second level concrete panels, the load those panels carried (building sides and roof) had to be redistributed under the ground floor. See interior rendering on page 4, Arts Insights.
The building layout is simple: Mechanicals and restrooms will be at the front, retaining the 8-foot ceilings, topped by offices on the second floor. Gallery walls soar two stories high in the middle, and the back retains two levels of artist workspace and storage. A second phase, to be built on the current parking area, might be a carbon copy of the current building form, but clad in wood, to house MCA’s library. The library remains in the Marcy Holmes neighborhood for now.
Some unique materials are incorporated into the 1509 Marshall building: A lightweight recycled glass rock with good insulating qualities takes the place of gravel base for the concrete floor. Walls are insulated with hemp wool. It took some doing to get the city to sign off on it, but they did, said Rasmussen. There will be in-floor heat.
MCA will hold a fundraiser with their patrons on May 10, but the building will not be open for Art-A-Whirl. Their first exhibition in the finished building will be in June. The architects will come back in summer.
They commented that “meeting all the people that Megan and John have helped has been great.” (Megan McReady is MCA’s deputy director.)
About the film
The film shown by the visiting architects, “Renovate, Don’t Speculate” makes the case that real estate speculation, financial markets and the cycle of creating new space while throwing away old is wrong. It has commoditized what should be necessities available to everyone, decent places to live.
“To achieve the social-ecological transformation of the existing building stock we must activate what is already there, through measures focused on building preservation, adaptation, renovation and transformation,” states the website, www.houseeurope.eu.
The European Citizens Initiative is drafting a legislative proposal, which, if it can gather a million signatures, will have to be considered by the European Union.