In the southeast of England, a derelict building appears to be falling apart in the most unusual way: It’s getting unzipped. This piece of architectural trickery is the work of British sculptor Alex Chinneck who this month unveiled his latest installation, Open to the Public.
Comprising an oversized double zip, Open to the Public looks as if it is peeling away the walls of a 1960s office building in Ashford, Kent. Running 26 feet along the walls of the building, the zip reveals a dilapidated and abandoned interior. The building is due to be demolished, something that gave Chinneck “huge creative freedom and a license for ambition.”
Although the project took two months, the artwork appeared in zippy fashion, going up overnight. How the piece is made is not entirely clear. The Architect’s Newspaper asked Chinneck what the work was made from, however, the artist was coy about his methods. “How the work is created is part of the magic, and I prefer not to spoil the illusion. All I will say is that we started by casting the facade of the building,” he said.
The surreal artwork is typical of Chinneck who has bemused passers-by in London and Kent before. In the past five years, he has slid the brick facade off a three-story property in Margate, constructed a full-size melting house from 7,500 wax bricks on London Bridge, ‘floated’ a stone building above London’s Covent Garden plaza, and inverted an electricity pylon to stand on its tip.
Chinneck said that he had wanted to “unzip a building for some time.” He went on:
It had to be the right one, with the right set of circumstances. It’s often the case that the idea is there, in sketch form in my mind, waiting to be fully realized. It can take years for those ideas to find a home, and there are hundreds more still waiting. In this case, the site was originally a tannery and wool processing factory so there is a historical association with textiles.
I like the fact that the building is so archetypal. I had school lessons in a building just like it and that sense of familiarity is one of the things that I like to subvert. I think we’ve all got a relationship with a building like this, somewhere in our past, so that imbues the work with personal meaning.
Its position, right by the road, close to the post office, the council offices, the probation center and the leisure center means that people of all ages and from all walks of life will see it.
According to the artist, Open to the Public will remain ‘open’ until the end of August, “at least.”