Chanced across this great excerpt from the artist Donald Judd, writing about a beautiful New York cast-iron building he bought in 1968. It was built in 1870, when Soho was known as the Cast-Iron District, or Hell’s Hundred Acres, rather than the home to chic, repurposed Prada and Apple stores and million dollar rents of the present day. The sheer physical strength of these buildings – also visible in Manchester and other former textile production areas – enable their endless repurposing, but hearing how Judd approached the building – or "leaving the building alone" – is fascinating.
"In November 68 I bought a cast-iron building in the Cast-Iron District of New York City. The building was built in 1870 and designed by Nicholas Whyte, whose only other cast-iron building is in Brazil. I don’t know the first purpose of the building but suppose that something of cloth was made on the upper floors and sold on the lower ones, since many building in the are were stores, since the façade is fancy, not like that of a warehouse, and since it is mostly glass …"
"I thought the building should be repaired and basically not changed. It is a 19th century building. It was pretty certain that each floor had been open, since there were no signs of original walls, which determined that each floor should have one purpose: sleeping, eating, working. The given circumstances were very simple: the floors must be open; the right angle of windows on each floor must not be interrupted; and any changes must be compatible. My requirements were that the building be useful for living and working and more importantly, more definitely, be a space in which to install work of mine and of others. At first, I thought the building large, but now I think it small; it didn’t hold much work after all. I spent a great deal of time placing the art and a great deal designing the renovation in accordance. Everything from the first was intended to be thoroughly considered and to be permanent, as, despite several, still is. The renovation and installation was begun in 69 and was known by some who later used permanence to hide impermanence."
"The building finally contained more work of others than of mine, but I thought of many works in regard to it, primarily rejected because they were elaborate and took too much space, and so went against the nature of the building. Other than leaving the building alone, then and now a highly positive act, my main inventions are the floors of the 5th and 3rd floors and the parallel planes of the identical ceilings and floor of the 4th floor. The baseboard of the 5th floor is the same oak as that of the floor, making the floor a shallow recessed plane. There is no baseboard, there is a gap between the walls and the floor of the 3rd floor, thus defining and separating the floor as a plane."
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