The Monroe Abbey: Reimagined for the Future

Rendering courtesy of Jones Studio

Rendering courtesy of Jones Studio

At the beginning of October, For(u)m was proud to partner with the architecture firm Jones Studio to showcase perhaps its most ambitious design project, the adaptive reuse of the historic Monroe Abbey.

On First Friday, we welcomed nearly 800 attendees to survey the Abbey's exterior, taste beer from the soon-to-arrive State 48 Brewery next-door, immerse themselves in dance and projections, eat from Ni De Aquí Ni De Allá, and peek inside the building that will soon be transformed into a cultural hub of galleries, office, restaurants, and bars, all around a central open-air performance space.

While there were many incredible sights, we thought some especially stood out.

 

1. A Building Within a Building

Image courtesy of Chrisal Valencia

Image courtesy of Chrisal Valencia

After an infamous fire gutted the former First Baptist Church in the 1980s, the Abbey was left as just a shell. For decades, metal beams propped up the walls of the fragile structure, as its bricks weathered with time. But thanks to the ingenuity of Jones Studio, the Abbey has been reconstructed: now, the building's structure is steel-and-concrete, with the exterior left intact. A true building-within-a-building, the Abbey is now stronger than ever!

2. An Activated Alley

Image courtesy of Chrisal Valencia

Image courtesy of Chrisal Valencia

Despite a massive entry on Monroe Street, the evening's proceeding activities were concentrated on the Abbey. Echoing rising Valley spots such as Valley Bar and Melinda's Alley, the Abbey has equally focused itself northward towards Van Buren Street, and its neighbors at Welnick Arcade Marketplace (soon the home of State 48 Brewery) and The Van Buren concert venue. Dance performances, beer samples, and a food truck lined the alleyway as hundreds of attendees found new ways to interact with this historic building.

3. Eyes on the Street

Image courtesy of ON Media Group

Image courtesy of ON Media Group

Along Van Buren Street, our presence was announced by our partners at ON Media Group. Through their massive LED video wall, thousands of cars traveling on First Friday were drawn to the site, and offered a peek at our upcoming partnership "Locals Only Arizona," to fully debut at our Fall Festival. What was very recently a desolate stretch of road in downtown Phoenix, will soon be a major hub of activity with a variety of food, art, and performance venues for every persuasion.

4. Immersive Performance

Image courtesy of Chrisal Valencia

Image courtesy of Chrisal Valencia

Keeping visitors company throughout the event were a series of one-of-a-kind projections and performances, bathing the Abbey in activity. In a passageway on the building's west side, dancers from JAMovement utilized projection, "honey paintings," and music to craft a performance which blurred the lines of performer and audience. To the south, Jordan Daniels offered a solo performance with projection at the connecting point of the alley and Third Avenue, allowing viewers to either come right up to the "stage" or peer through the chainlink fence which wrapped the lot.

Also on the south side, Lana Del Rabies utilized mirrored projections on the building's facade, with geometric cityscapes playing against one another in hypnotic array. 

Then, literally crowning the project, Mark Hughes offered a site-specific work on the Abbey's bell tower--the windows' slots became sites for votive candles, signaling the rebirth of the site, along with a drip of water filling up the tower's visual space.

5. An Open-Air Hub

Image courtesy of ON Media Group

Image courtesy of ON Media Group

Though fire nearly destroyed the Abbey three decades ago, that same fire gave this historic site unprecedented potential. With its roof gone, an iconic central courtyard remained.

Rather than rebuild a roof, plans for reconstruction leave the building's center open, during the day serving as a casual courtyard for visitors. By night, the Abbey will transform into a venue for performances of all types and private events. The Abbey will be transformed with the soon to come bars, galleries, and restaurants.

With so much incredible potential, and so much room to work with, this event served as just a taste of what's to come with the historic Monroe Abbey. Stay tuned for a "2.0" event in spring 2018, presented again by For(u)m to kick-off final improvements for the building!