A Glittering Monument To The Subprime Mortgage Crisis

Flint Michigan's floating house installation challenges viewers to look closer at the financial meltdown.

It's no secret Detroit has been facing serious financial woes. Declaring bankruptcy and the additional threat of losing their public arts institutions has kept the city in the US headlines, pushing the more positive aspects of the region into the margins. This hardship extends throughout the state, and in 2010 alone 1,700 Genesee County homes went into foreclosure. Though former owners felt like their plight had gone unnoticed, one person who did take an interest was William Villalobos, a London-based architect and designer with Two Islands.

According to Villalobos: "People don't only lose a house; they lose a bunch of memories that they have recorded in the back of their brains that are attached to something physical."

A thought both incredibly sad, yet fantastically metaphysical.

Inspired, Villalobos created "Mark's House": a temporary structure paying tribute to Flint, MI: badly hit by both the subprime mortgage crisis and the ongoing recession. Memorialized in films like Michael Moore's 1989 documentary Roger & Me, Flint has a long history of economic troubles, and is greatly in need of a morale boost like this. As part of the fictional back story behind "Mark's House," the group invented Mark: a fictional Flint resident who'd fallen victim to foreclosure as a result of a subprime loan. However, viewers are encouraged to see themselves in the building, as well is in Mark's story.  

Teaming up with colleagues Cesc Massanas and Tomas Selva, the group's design includes a 28-foot-tall Tudor-style structure built on a reflective pedestal and wrapped in reflective Myler. The pavilion was built with the hopes that it would become a welcome part of the community, acting as protection against the elements for local citizens as well as a canopy for outdoor events.

While it's still unknown just how much of a role it'll actually play in daily life, it's already captured the imagination of Flint residents. Growing out of an international design competition held by the Flint Public Art Project and AIA Flint last spring, in addition to the $25,000 prize money the group also received an extra $15,300 boost through kickstarter crowdfunding.

As an added touch, the architects fitted the bottom of the canopy with light boxed filled with photos donated by Kickstarter supporters, sent both locally and from around the world.

Said Villalobos: "When people go into this podium and look up, they will be able to see these pieces of a collective memory."

Via Architizer, photos courtesy of Gavin Smith