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Design competition finalist makes a place for community

Thursday, 21 March 2013

flintWhat can you come up with to transform a parking lot into a community gathering place, in the face of financial and logistical constraints? That was the challenge facing design teams in the Flat Lot competition in Flint, Michigan. “Knot Lot,” a Shepley Bulfinch team submission, was chosen as one of five finalists from among 221 entries in the competition, which was sponsored by the Flint (Michigan) Public Art Project and the Flint chapter of the AIA.  Knot Lot and other top entries will be part of an exhibition opening in Flint on April 14.

Organizers asked designers from around the world to develop proposals for converting an active surface parking lot to an event space for concerts, art shows, markets, and other community activities. Not only were entrants restricted to a very tight budget ($25,000), but the structures that they proposed had to be easily erected and taken down so that the parking lot could remain functional during normal business hours. During these hours, the structures could only occupy eight parking spaces.

The Knot Lot proposal capitalizes on the opportunities offered by the site, an empty parking lot in Flint, Michigan. Parking lot lampposts provide a built-in structure on a blank slate, ideal for redefining the lot as social space for community interaction and events.  We proposed a knotted shade canopy suspended from the lampposts, providing flexible space beneath to host Flint’s diverse range of summer activities.

Working within the constraints of competition, the proposal honors Flint’s automotive history by parking four Buick Century Sedans and two flatbed Chevrolet trucks in eight spaces under two existing lampposts. The trucks provide both storage and a stage. A knotted rope canopy, made with simple climbing knots (clove and girth hitch), hangs between the lampposts and attaches to the Buicks’ trailer hitches. In a dramatic opening event, the cars drive out to the edge of the lot, pulling the guide ropes taut as the canopy unfurls behind them.  The knotted rope creates patterned shade over the stage and surrounding area.

Five hundred exercise balls hang from the canopy and provide mobile seating, customizable to community needs and scalable to a wide range of events. When not in use they can be stored in the trucks or hung from the canopy, creating a field of spotted shade for spontaneous interaction.

Tad Jusczyk, Susannah Cramer-Greenbaum, Ming Yan, and Aris Garrison were Shepley’s Knot Lot design team.

The exhibit featuring Knot Lot and the other 19 top submissions will open on April 14 during Flint Art Walk.

Knot Lot submission - detail

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