Past Perfect

A U.S. Team Preserves a Mural by Making an Innovative Replica




“This project is unlike anything Detroit has ever seen.”

—Marvin Beatty, FIRM Real Estate, to The Detroit News

Demolition was a no-brainer, given the serious structural issues that plagued the brick building in the Eastern Market area of Detroit, Michigan, USA. What wasn’t clear was how to build a bigger, better structure—and somehow preserve the vibrant murals characteristic of the area. In September, architecture firm MVRDV unveiled its proposed solution. Before demolition was scheduled to take place in October, the project team carefully scanned the original mural, along with the underlying texture of the bricks. Then, using a technique called digital ceramic printing, the team will magnify and reproduce the mural on thick facade panels, forming a 3D-printed glass skin for the new 40,000-square-foot (3,716-square-meter) mixed-use facility.

The ground level of the space will be wrapped in the replicated mural by local artist Denial (aka Daniel Bombardier). Above, the team commissioned a new mural by local artist Sheefy McFly, while earmarking the top story for rotating installations. Meanwhile, transparent areas in the mural create natural windows and afford office and retail tenants plenty of natural light. “They told me the concepts they were playing around with, and it was just mind blowing,” Bombardier told CBC.

MVRDV is no stranger to digital ceramic printing. The firm used the technique for an earlier project, Glass Farm, wrapping a new glass building’s entire facade with a skin printed to look like a traditional metal-and-brick barn. In Detroit, the 14-month Glass Mural building project, expected to move into the construction phase sometime this year, will receive support from Detroit minorityowned contractors L.S. Brinker Co.


Glass Mural


Launched in September, construction phase begins in 2021


Design and build a four-story multiuse structure that also preserves the existing streetscape


Denial, with the help of two other artists, spent two weeks painting the original mural in 2017, describing it as “a love letter to Detroit.”

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