Derelict building gets 'unzipped' as surrealist art sculpture

Alex Chinneck
© Alex Chinneck

It's a bit of a TreeHugger-y, preservationist mantra that the greenest building is the one that's already standing, making retrofits and renovations a better (and less wasteful) option over a complete demolition and building from scratch.

But what if a building is torn down? Well, before it is, it could at least perhaps serve another more artistic purpose, as British sculptor Alex Chinneck has done with this quirky installation called Open to the Public, which literally unzips the facade of an old 1960s building that's slated for demolition.

Alex Chinneck© Alex Chinneck
Located near the artist's workspace in Ashford, Kent, the 8-metre (26 feet) tall building-turned-artwork has a big zipper on both its front and side, which opens up to show an abandoned interior.

Alex Chinneck© Alex Chinneck

Alex Chinneck© Alex Chinneck

Alex Chinneck© Alex Chinneck

Chinneck, whose practice involves adapting derelict buildings into large-scale, surrealist artworks that seem to be a balance between architecture and careful engineering, tells Dezeen that he wanted to convey the history of the building as the former offices of a leather and textile manufacturer:

There is a history of textile that fed into the language of the zip. The building presented a good opportunity because, facing demolition, it gave us sculptural freedom to open it up to the elements. When introducing a narrative, we take complex paths to get to simple moments, which are quite accessible and conceptually light – we kept it playful with the zipping element.

Alex Chinneck© Alex Chinneck

According to Chinneck, a combination of rubber and other flexible materials were used to create the illusion of the walls unzipping and peeling off. Some of his previous works have created the appearance of a facade slipping off, or to create the illusion of a stone building floating in the air.

Alex Chinneck© Alex Chinneck

It's simple and eye-catching, but this approach of celebrating the last hurrah of a piece of local history reminds us that there may still be life in these old walls, if we care to look a bit longer. To see more of Chinneck's work, visit his website and Instagram.

Derelict building gets 'unzipped' as surrealist art sculpture
An old office for a leather and textile manufacturer is turned into a quirky art installation.

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