While many of the investigations in this studio stem from an interest in widely-considered issues such as housing, food security, and homelessness, sometimes a student explores an issue not covered before, with delightful results. Such is the case of the work of student Maria Tomaszycki. Maria is a self-described lover of classic films and movies in general, and researched why the millennial generation is not interested in classic movies.
“Through countless articles, web pages, and an interview with a Detroit film critic”, Maria wrote, “I found the main cause of this sad reality is plainly this: people are not exposed to classic movies.” To better understand what is being done to preserve this cinematic heritage, Maria reached out to the Motor City Theater Organ Society (MCTOS), an all-volunteer organization that owns and operates the Redford Theater, one of only three theaters in Detroit that screens classic films. The Redford Theatre is a complex which consists of the theater in the middle, two storefronts to the north and two storefronts to the south, and conversations with Steve Overstreet, the President of MCTOS and Thom Kinney, an MCTOS member, it was determined that the MCTOS wished to convert one of the storefronts into a 35’-0” x 16’-4” multi-use space that could be used for meetings and film discussions, or be rented out to community members. The back area would eventually capitalize on a connection to the main theater space, and become the MCTOS office. Maria and her community partners determined that the objectives for what would become Redford Theatre Storefront were to “maximize flexibility, coordinate the new interventions with existing design plans, revamp the existing glass storefront for street appeal, accommodate 30-36 people for various activities, and improve the acoustical quality of the space.”
With spatial flexibility being a high priority, it became obvious to Maria and her partners that the main leasable area be kept clear. The challenge was compounded by a lack of available storage space. Maria investigated a variety of flexible systems, and means of storing seating within the space when it needed to be opened for receptions or larger gatherings. Among the possibilities was a means of wall-mounting unused seating to maximize available floor area, as well as the creation of storage compartments tucked beneath an existing staircase. The major intervention in the space needed to be at the ceiling, where acoustical remediation could best be addressed. “At the moment it works as a great echo chamber”, Maria wrote. “The ceiling is where we had the most room for creativity and making the space come alive. After discussing this with my community partner, we decided that implementing a free floating drop down ceiling was our best option for the space. The drop down ceiling creates a wave-like form to draw the attention of the users upward.” This ceiling system created visual interest, while allowing access to mechanical and electrical systems. While the office / support spaces would be part of a second phase of construction, Maria also prepared planning studies to demonstrate how to best utilize the office.
The street appeal of the storefront needed to be addressed as well. The proposal was to remove the existing signage to reveal the glass block underneath. “This move will help bring more light into the space”, Maria noted. “Furthermore, in a way, the glass block will become a marquee for the storefront because a variety of translucent paints will be applied to the blocks for the glass to appear as stained-glass. Additionally, the (existing) black curtains will be replaced by plantation shutters. This too will allow for more light in the space and will be aesthetically appealing.”
Maria and her partners were excited for the possibilities of the space: “The storefront will be used to support the theater in the best way possible. The surrounding community, movie buffs, and volunteers will be able to rent the space for activities ranging from birthday parties to business meetings to small movie screenings. Although the storefront is in place for the use of the theater it in itself is its own entity and will be beneficial for the community.” Maria’s passion for classic film can now help others appreciate (and discover) this cultural touchstone.