Dezeen Magazine

Open House by Matthew Mazzotta

This house in Alabama folds open to provide seating for an open-air performance space (+ movie).

Sections of the house-shaped structure designed by artist Matthew Mazzotta are hinged and unfold to reveal rows of seating inside the walls and under the roof.

Open House by Matthew Mazzotta

Community organisation Coleman Center for the Arts and local residents teamed up with Mazzotta to demolish a derelict house in the centre of York, Alabama, and repurpose its materials and site for new public space - an amenity lacking in the town.

"Public space is an important element for the social and political health of a community," Mazzotta told Dezeen. "If there is nowhere for people to come together and talk, except for the grocery store, then the conversations about the town are much less dynamic and inclusive."

Open House by Matthew Mazzotta
The original abandoned building

The team took the abandoned dwelling apart by hand to salvage timber boards, window frames and anything else reusable. The fire department then levelled the remaining debris using a controlled blaze.

The new structure sits on the same plot as the original house and is built on top of reclaimed railway sleeper foundations. The project was completed seven months after the idea was initiated.

Open House by Matthew Mazzotta
The fire department burn down the remains of the original building

Opening along the top ridge in five sections on each side. Hinges are located along the ground and seams halfway down the sides of the roof.

The large sections are lowered down in two stages and each requires a few people to move them at a time.

Open House by Matthew Mazzotta

Once fully unfolded, five rows of seating in three lines face an open area that can be used for film screenings, musical performances and town meetings.

"People that sit together can dream together and have a moment to collectively see their town from a new perspective, and have a moment to express that to one another," Mazzotta said.

Open House by Matthew Mazzotta

Present at the opening event, Mazzotta noticed that everyone made themselves at home in the outdoor theatre straight away:

"People took right to it and started dancing and having a good time," he said. "When we showed the movie, all the kids sat and laid all over it like it was their living room."

Open House by Matthew Mazzotta

"Overall there is just a real positive attitude towards the project since it cleaned up such an eyesore and now provides such an enjoyable experience, both through the events and the design," said Mazzotta.

We recently published a home in Paraguay with a roof that lifts up like the lid of a box, and other moving buildings we've featured include a house that would shape-shift in different weather and structures that would roll along railway tracks.

Open House by Matthew Mazzotta

Other outdoor theatres on Dezeen include an outdoor stage in Estonia made entirely from timber batons and a temporary canal-side cinema under a London motorway flyover.

See more moving buildings »
See more architecture and design in the USA »

Read on for more information from the project organisers:

Open House by Matthew Mazzotta

202 Main Street, York, Alabama - between the town post office and the main grocery store.

What happens when an artist is invited to use the resources of a small town to help transform its identity? Artist Matthew Mazzotta, the Coleman Center for the Arts, and the people of York Alabama have teamed up to transform one of York's most iconic blighted properties into a new public space. Open House is a house with a secret, it physically transforms from the shape of a house into an open air theater that seats one hundred people by having its walls and roof fold down.

Open House by Matthew Mazzotta
Performers at the opening event

On June 15 of this year, a ribbon cutting by the Mayor of York, Gena Robbins, inaugurated Open House. The symbolic gesture was followed with an invocation prayer to bless the project by Reverend Willie, performances by a gospel choir and the local R&B funk band Time Zone, as well as an outdoor film screening of Dr. Suess's The Lorax. For the town of York, this is the beginning of a series of free public events programed by the Coleman Center for the Arts. A screening of the film Madagascar 3 was shown this past weekend - August 10th at 7:30pm. The theatre is free and open to the public.

Open House by Matthew Mazzotta

How Open House came to be?

In January 2011, artist Matthew Mazzotta was invited by the Coleman Center For The Arts to organise an artwork with the people of York. During Matthew's initial visit to York, the artist asked people from the community to bring something from their living room so that they could recreate a living room outdoors in the middle of the street as a way to provoke discussion about what were on peoples minds and to generate ideas about what direction they might go in. From this conversation, they developed a project that uses the materials of an abandoned house as well as the land it sits on to build the transforming structure on the footprint of the old house.

Open House by Matthew Mazzotta

How it works?

The metamorphosis of Open House is designed to require cooperation. It takes four people one and a half hours to unfold the structure. The foundation is made of used railroad ties which anchor the custom fabricated industrial hinges to five rows of stadium seating. The rows of seats fold down with the aid of a hand winch and enough manpower to counter balance the hefty, but agile structure.

Open House by Matthew Mazzotta

Critical Impact

Through the project, the artist hopes to directly address the lack of public space in York, AL by providing a physical location that becomes a common ground for community dialogue and activities. The new structure carries the weight of the past through the materials that were salvaged and repurposed from the old structure, most visibly the original pink siding. When Open House is fully unfolded, it provides an opportunity for people to come together and experience the community from a new perspective. When it folds back up, it resembles the original abandoned house, reminding people of the history of what was there before.

Support for Open House provided, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Visual Artists Network, York Drug, the City of York, the City of York Fire Department and countless individual supporters of the Coleman Center for the Arts and Matthew Mazzotta. A special thanks to Jegan Vincent De Paul, Cory Vineyard, Curtis Oliveira, James Marshall, Elouise Finch, Brenda Carole and Lerene Johnson, Alpha Kappa Alpha of the University of West Alabama, John’s Welding of Meridian, MS, Beany Green, Pam Dorr and CCA employees and Board of Directors.