Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit
4454 Woodward Avenue
Before his passing at the young age of 57, Los-Angeles based artist Mike Kelley created an exact duplicate of his childhood home in the Westland area of Detroit, on-wheels. The artist intended to use the mobile-home as a community center, it’s rooms dedicated to hosting local events and providing community services and education programs, save for the two-story basement, which he would close to the public and use as his private underground studio. Kelley was never able to use his studio. He tragically committed suicide before he could ever see his vision come to life, but his artistic legacy lives on. The mobile home, which provides a solid example of the architecture of working-class neighborhoods in the American Midwest, was wheeled to The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit where it has been transformed into a center for community programs, just as Kelley intended.
When is a Center really a center? Well first of all it’s got to have a center, don’t you think? The Betances Community Center has a splendid gym holding strong in the middle of the plan, full of warm, white light modulated by the south-facing glass block wall and monitor side walls of Kalwall. Originally intended to house a boxing ring and bright orange bleacher seating, the space is now multi-purpose with the bleachers accordioned to the walls; the famous boxing program moved elsewhere. Even without the ring, the architecture packs a wallop of clarity, modesty, attention to detail, and programmatic resolution.