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Monday, May 06, 2013

101 Spring Street


[5th Floor, 2013. Photo Credit: Josh White. Donald Judd Art © Judd Foundation. Licensed by VAGA, New York Artwork © John Chamberlain. © Lucas Samaras. Dan Flavin © Stephen Flavin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Donald Judd FurnitureTM© Judd Foundation.]

101 Spring Street in New York City by Architecture Research Office, 2013
Art and architecture—all the arts—do not have to exist in isolation, as they do now. This fault is very much a key to the present society. Architecture is nearly gone, but it, art, all the arts, in fact all parts of society, have to be rejoined, and joined more than they have ever been. -Donald Judd, 1986
In 1968, artist Donald Judd (1928-1994) purchased a 5-story cast iron building in SoHo for $68,000, subsequently moving his studio and his family there from further uptown. Constructed in 1870 by Nicholas Whyte, the impressive gray and glass building is located on the northeast corner of Spring and Mercer Streets. When Judd moved in, the area was an empty assemblage of industrial buildings that was on the cusp of the transformations (at first clandestine and later embraced by the city) that eventually helped turned SoHo into the pricey enclave it is today. That the Judd Foundation has been able to keep hold of the property (it's the only single-function building left in SoHo) and restore the building for public visits is both remarkable and necessary—now people can better appreciate Judd's work, his relationship to the city, and the evolution of New York City in the latter half of the 20th century.

New York City's Architecture Research Office (ARO) is the project architect for the restoration, accompanied by a small fleet of architects and engineers. Most notable are Walter B. Melvin Architects, the exterior restoration architect, and Arup, the engineers responsible for MEP and fire protection. The latter's role is especially important, given how little space was available for mechanical and fire protection systems—ingenuity with space and technology allowed the systems to follow the mandate of the whole project: The structure and Judd's interventions should appear the same after the three-year restoration as they did before. In this sense, ARO's role would appear to be architectural sleight of hand, and to a certain degree that is true. But considering that for most people the building at 101 Spring Street was a place shrouded by scaffolding (installed in 2002 for safety), experiencing the building and its spaces will be a novel one where art and architecture merge.

Visiting the building, as I was able to do on a recent spring afternoon, one of the first impressions after taking in the crisp restoration of the cast iron is the mottled appearance of the glass, which looks to be anything but intentional. But intentional it is, with new glass replicating the unique visual texture that surrounded Judd when he lived and worked in the spaces. The first floor was initially Judd's studio, but he moved it to the third floor for more privacy. After the building opens to the public in June, the first floor will serve as an events space; a couple floors in the basement—lit by glass blocks in the sidewalk—serve as the Judd Foundation's offices. The first floor is anchored by a couple Judd pieces, a precarious-looking sculpture by Carl Andre, and a roll-top desk that Judd found in the building, restored, and used.

The second floor is the living space, most impressive for the Judd-designed kitchen that tucks itself partly under the stair and a sleeping loft. This floor feels domestic, yet as if it exists synergestically with the art and furnishings that occupy the large open space. The third floor is more museum-like, with art and some drafting instruments on display, but a similar domestic sensation continues on the fifth floor (the fourth floor was still being worked on at the time of my visit), where bedrooms, closets, and sleeping loft anchor the north end of the building, in a similar location to the kitchen downstairs. This floor also houses an enormous Dan Flavin light sculpture running the whole length of the floor, an element that makes a strong argument for uniting art, architecture, and life into one whole.

I have not visited Marfa, Donald Judd's well-known outpost in West Texas, but I'm guessing both places share the characteristic of control. This word (not used in a critical way) colors Judd's precisely machined forms and the importance of their placement within natural and artificial environments. Everything at 101 Spring Street, be it art by him or others or even domestic implements, is carefully positioned, following Judd's use of the building. This lends the space a feeling that is similar to other house-museums, such as much older ones in the city run by Parks and Rec and the Historic House Trust. But where those and other houses may use period furnishings (original and not) to convey a sense of the place and time, 101 Spring Street exhibits the lived-in experiment that Judd made of the building, an important distinction that stresses the importance of thinking about expression and the environment in which it happens.


[Exterior, 2013. Photo: John Hill.]


[1st Floor, 2013 Photo Credit: Josh White. Image © Judd Foundation. Donald Judd Art © Judd Foundation. Licensed by VAGA, New York.]


[2nd Floor, 2013 Photo Credit: Josh White. Image © Judd Foundation. Art © Ad Reinhardt. Donald Judd FurnitureTM© Judd Foundation.]


[2nd Floor, 2013 Photo Credit: Josh White. Image © Judd Foundation. Art © Ad Reinhardt. Donald Judd FurnitureTM© Judd Foundation.]


[3rd Floor, 2013 Photo Credit: Josh White. Art © Larry Bell. Image © Judd Foundation.]


[5th Floor, 2013 Photo Credit: Josh White. Donald Judd Art © Judd Foundation. Licensed by VAGA, New York. Dan Flavin © Stephen Flavin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.]


[5th Floor, 2013 Photo Credit: Josh White. Donald Judd Art © Judd Foundation. Licensed by VAGA, New York. © Claes Oldenburg. © Lucas Samaras. Dan Flavin © Stephen Flavin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Donald Judd FurnitureTM© Judd Foundation.]


[2nd Floor, 2010 Photo Credit: Mauricio Alejo. Judd Foundation Archives. Image © Judd Foundation. Donald Judd FurnitureTM© Judd Foundation.]


[3rd Floor, 2003 Photo Credit: Rainer Judd. Judd Foundation Archives. Image/Art © Judd Foundation. Licensed by VAGA, New York.]


[4th Floor, 2010 Photo Credit: Mauricio Alejo. Judd Foundation Archives. Image © Judd Foundation. Flavin artwork © Stephen Flavin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Donald Judd FurnitureTM© Judd Foundation.]

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