Matthew Mazzotta, a Massachusetts-based artist who is also a lecturer at MIT, was our 2014 AZ Award winner for Best Temporary Architecture. His fantastic Open House project was a collaboration with the Coleman Center for the Arts and residents of York, a small town in Alabama.
For Open House, Mazzotta dismantled an abandoned house and reused the materials to assemble a new structure. What looks at first glance like a small house or shed unfolds into an open-air theatre with seating for 100 spectators. The project brought much-needed public space to a community suffering in the wake of economic downturn.
Mazzotta launched his latest project, in Lyons, Nebraska, from the same starting point as in York: an outdoor living room. Asking citizens to bring something from their own living rooms, he gathered the community in an environment where they could comfortably discuss how a public art initiative could effect positive social change for the town of 900 residents. A desire to revitalize the downtown area was immediately identified, and once again an untapped resource emerged – a city-owned storefront that was not a building at all, just an empty façade hiding a vacant lot.
With a starting point that resembled a film set, another theatre was a natural fit. Residents offered up their skills and resources to turn the facade into a retractable wall that opens into a row of stadium seating. While Alabama’s theatre provided a place for concerts, movie nights and other community events, Lyons took things a step further; while Mazzotta set to work transforming the empty façade into a hidden treasure, another crew got things rolling with their own project.
A local pop culture junkie who had already built a theatre – in his own basement – also wanted to contribute to the project. He put his personal collection of film equipment to use making a movie to screen at the new theatre. The 45-minute feature stars a cast of locals and explores the history of Lyons, depicting the downtown through the decades.
The theatre and film debuted on the same night, drawing spectators from within the town’s borders and beyond. Its overflowing bleachers reminded residents that there is still much hidden potential left to be discovered in their community.