Gallery: BIG DIG HOUSE
INHABITAT: The show is really centered on "A Working Class", your most recent piece, which is also a big departure from your other works. Can you tell us a little about that piece?Alex White Mazzarella: "A Working Class" is a wall installation of plastic oil, liquor nips and beverage containers excavated out of the underserved streets of Willets Point, Queens. It speaks towards the American working class that is being held with little regard by groups and politics that use their power to transfer their wealth to the 1%. It's complicated as there are drainage issues, but fact is the city sees this as a land grab to make money for their development. This is free enterprise - what this country is supposedly built to achieve - but being undermined by private interests and the city that is not treating this class as equals. In fact, a shop owner and friend of mine from Willets Point now tells me that India is now feeling more like “America” than the United States does. Nevermind service - he says in Willets Point, he’s constantly getting fined and harassed by city workers rather than assisted. Meanwhile high-rise luxury condominiums are getting 25-year tax abatements. Preferential treatment for the rich by the rich - income distributions continue to skew. “A Working Class” is a tribute to the shadow population of Willets Point who continue to struggle against marginalization and disregard. Economy and society grow when they are nurtured to grow - our taxes used to nurture our own growth. Instead, income is becoming more and more disparate everyday as the mechanics of our economy have been set up to deliver more and more of the wealth to that upper % of the economy.
Constructed with over 600,000lbs of recycled materials, this is the house that Boston’s Big Dig built — or more precisely, a house that engineer, Paul Pedini, built with the design expertise of John Hong from Single Speed Design in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At a final cost of $150 per square foot, most of the materials for the house were free, minus the expenses to ship the materials (formerly I-93 off-ramps from the heart of the transportation artery through Boston,unofficially known as the “Big Dig”) to Lexington, MA.
The site of the Big Dig was a literal graveyard of materials, and the city was running out of land to store them. The Big Dig house is akin to a prefab system, made from a kit of precomposed parts. A large chunk of recycled steel became the beams and columns which frame the house. The frame and stained concrete floors were completed in just four days.
While the materials may be heavy and industrial, the height of the spaces in the house brings in plenty of daylight and views to the natural surroundings. Hong added several sustainable features beyond the use of recycled materials, including a roof garden that serves as an outdoor patio above the garage, and a rainwater catchment system for irrigation. Looking at the Big Dig house, you’d hardly guess it emerged from the rubble of an old freeway, but the gorgeous final product is a shining example of how to turn gravel into gold.