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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

‘Flat Lot’ competition receives global attention

By Natalie Broda and Web Editor

The Flint Public Art Project (FPA) is presenting a competition which has already drawn mass global attention. The Flat Lot competition, set to take place in the spring, is a program to build and design a temporary conceptual structure in the Flat Lot parking lot. According to program coordinator and member of the American Institute for Architects (AIA) John Gazall, over 320 architects from over 30 countries have already entered. The winner will receive a $25,000 prize to make their design into a reality.

“We’re talking China, Africa, and from all over places like Los Angeles and New York,” Gazall said. “We even had a girl from Portland fly in last week to take a look around.”

The FPA and the AIA have teamed up with the Downtown Development Authority to make this happen. Members from all three organizations will be on the judging panel for the competition, along with some local deans. Architects are only allowed to take up eight parking spaces. Gazall says they’re all looking for the most creative designs possible.

“Budget is a big part of the construction, but with so many people coming in from around the world, we’re really excited to see their creativity and what they come up with,” Gazall said.

Stephen Zacks is the Executive Director for the FPA. The project focuses on community collaboration, but this isn’t your average “art project.” There is an emphasis on urban solutions and architecture. Zacks believes this kind of work requires careful research, but is necessary. The architecture and infrastructure of a city can make or break its people.

“This competition is very much a hybrid of contemporary art design and architecture. It’s a temporary structure but it’s designed for the urban space and a place for public art to take place in,” Zacks said. “What I can say so far is we’ve had an incredible response from our friends all over the world.”

The need for a useful and aesthetically pleasing summer structure is something Zacks sees clearly. The winning design will be around for events such as Back to the Bricks and the Crim, when the city benches are at their full capacity.

“Or like Dropfest, a music festival we had last summer. We had great music but not a great space. The event suffered because it took place in just a parking lot,” Zacks said.

One of the purposes of this event is to begin to present a new image of Flint around the world.

“Everywhere you go, you hear about this small industrial city in the midwest with extreme challenges. We want to make a representation of the city, something no one has seen so far,” Zacks said.

Executive Director of the DDA Gerard Burnash doesn’t see the Flat Lot Competition becoming annual, but he’s glad it’s coming.
“It’s just another way to draw attention to downtown. People who have never been here before I think will be pleasantly surprised,” Burnash said.

Natalie can be reached at

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