Storefront for Art and Architecture

Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York, NY by Steven Holl and Vito Acconci, 1993

Opened in 1993, the facade renovation for the Storefront for Art and Architecture was constructed on a budget of only $45,000. Architect Steven Holl and artist Vito Acconci's concept for the project of inside becoming outside is achieved by composing the facade with hinged panels. Each panel's unique shape, relationship to other panels, and open or closed condition creates, when combined with environmental conditions, a different facade each day. The design takes its concept and finds a clear solution within a small budget, but the project is also indicative of much of Holl's work in its focus on creating space through detailing, proportion, and the manipulation of light.

Pie-shaped in plan, the design opens to the street on one facade; the other wall is part of the building the Storefront is encased in. The long, solid wall is treated as gallery space, while the "fat" part of the plan is used for an office and storage. The narrow space of the gallery forces the visitor to confront the works presented. It is possible to glimpse what is on display through the exterior panels, but when inside one is caught in an ever contracting space.

Experiencing the space it is easy to see why many artists and architects have decided to create installations specific to the Storefront. Being there it is difficult to decide between paying attention to the work displayed or the space and the panels in their seemingly random juxtaposition. This randomness is anything but random though, in Holl's utilization of the golden section and other Renaissance-era rules of proportion. Although Holl's use of these rules does not contain the same meaning as when they originated, he carries a belief in the ability to fine-tune a design using these same rules, which many contemporary architects have abandoned.
The total perception of architectural spaces depends as much on the material and detail of the haptick realm as the taste of a meal depends on the flavors of authentic ingredients.   -Steven Holl
Although constructed on a minimal budget the Storefront contains a level of detail not found in much construction of equal cost. The exterior panels are a supraboard face with metal reveals, and the gallery space is white gypsum board. Inside the remnants of the structure's old uses are found in the columns, floor and ceiling. Whether for budgetary reasons or effect, the decision creates a strong contrast between old and new, but also gives a hint of inspiration (for example the screw-heads of the exterior panels echo the bolts on the interior columns).

The most dramatic effect of the design is the relationship between the interior space and the street outside, of which light plays a great role. The different configurations of panels, coupled with the ever-changing exterior weather conditions, creates unique vignettes of the city from the inside, while changing the framed glimpses into the gallery. The use of irregularly shaped openings has reappeared in much of Holl's work since, though not necessarily to as strong an effect. Perhaps here he was given the most freedom, able to create a solution that does not completely control the building's influence and relation to the environment: a kinetic architecture.