Pop property

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 9.05.45 AM A firehouse with many lives—including an illustrious turn as Andy Warhol’s first NYC studio—hit the market this week for a cool $9.975 million. According to the listing, the 5,000-square-foot space entices developer buyers as a “a blank canvas to create boutique condominiums, mixed use rental, luxury townhouse, or community facility/medical use.” A very different blank canvas than the one Warhol envisioned when he stepped foot inside the brick space, then without heat or running water.

The building sat a few blocks away from the 89th Street townhouse where Warhol had been living with his mother for three years. To remedy the overcrowding of Brillo boxes and Campbell’s soup cans, he jumped at the discovery of the vacant firehouse, most recently occupied by a hook and ladder company. Warhol wrote a letter to the city and offered to pay $100 (the lease he signed sold at Sotheby’s in 2014 for $13,750).

Concurrent to the move, Warhol decided he didn’t need to fabricate his own work anymore and hired an assistant, Gerard Malanga, to aid his exploration of the macabre in media. “I remember when Kennedy was shot,” Malanga told New York magazine in 1987. “We went back to the firehouse and made a silk screen of Dracula biting a girl’s neck.” Many such “Disaster” paintings began in the firehouse.

In the real estate mode, Warhol simultaneously scouted for spaces in midtown to base his first iteration of The Factory. A crumbling former hat factory on East 47th Street caught his fancy; he covered the walls with silver foil and metallic paint, and opened the Silver Factory in 1964.

The Factory and the firehouse attest to Warhol’s singular spatial aesthetic. “Andy was attracted to the space because it didn’t appear to be your typical artist’s studio, with wood floors and big windows looking out on a grand urban vista,” Malanga said. “It didn’t have that artsy aura. It had, more or less, an anonymous feel to it. You walked into it and you weren’t quite sure what it was or what had gone on there previous.”

Hopefully people now prospecting the firehouse will know what it is and some of what has gone on there.

Bold as brass

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 11.50.12 AM.jpg The world mourns the untimely passing of Dame Zaha Hadid, the iconic architect whose designs live on in all corners of the globe. Born in Baghdad in 1950, Hadid studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before diving into architecture in London. Through her firm, Zaha Hadid Architects, she left her imprint on 44 countries through 950 projects. Far more than her many firsts (first woman and first Muslim to win the Pritzker Prize), she set a non-normative, uncompromising course for modern creativity.

“I don’t really feel I’m part of the establishment. I’m not outside, I’m on the kind of edge, I’m dangling there. I quite like it,” she said last month on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs (for which she opened with Bryan Ferry, These Foolish Things). “I’m not against the establishment per se. I just do what I do and that’s it.”

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And what she did was revolutionary: At the February ceremony naming Hadid as the first woman to win the prestigious British Architects’ 2016 royal gold medal, architect Sir Peter Cook applauded his colleague’s iconic individualism.

For three decades now she has ventured where few would dare… Such self confidence is easily accepted in film-makers and football managers, but causes some architects to feel uncomfortable, maybe they’re secretly jealous of her unquestionable talent. Let’s face it, we might have awarded the medal to a worthy comfortable character. We didn’t. We awarded it to Zaha: larger than life, bold as brass and certainly on the case.

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Twist turn

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 2.10.33 PM.jpg A rusty loop draped across a hillside outside Rotterdam, designed by Dutch firm NEXT Architects. The stairway climbs toward an unhindered view of the horizon and skyline, and then descends upon the tram track taken by commuters. Designed to defy, the installation emulates the Möbius strip, a continuous surface with no top or bottom.

“When used as a path, it suggests a continuity, but crossing that path is—at least physically—an impossibility,” the architects told Arch Daily. “It’s that kind of ambiguity that we recognized in the inhabitants of this suburb: mentally they still feel very much connected to their mother town Rotterdam, but in daily life they are definitively disconnected. With the Möbius strip stair, we offer them a glimpse towards the Rotterdam skyline, but to continue their trip, they have to turn backwards, facing the context of their everyday life, Carnisselande."

Ergo the title, “The Elastic Perspective,” and the notion of an elastic self visually linked yet stretched from the city. An urban identity so close yet so far away. A rubber sense of belonging.

Ruin redux

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 2.45.02 PM A tower rising from detritus. Urban unison restored?

A former station in Lille, France has become the latest depot for Detroit-based artist Scott Hocking. “Babel,” his site-specific installation for the Lille 3000: Renaissance festival earlier this year, explores the cycle of ruin within cities—without judgment.

“Why do we look at some ruins with reverence, and see others as failures?,” Hocking has said. “Why can’t we realize that we’ve been creating things since the dawn of time, making structures and objects with our hands, and at some point they decay, at some point the civilization that made it fails, at some point the city in which it was made disappears? It’s not the end—there’s never an ending. So maybe there’s a certain countering to the idea that this is the end of something, that this is a failed city, or a failed industrial age. I just see it as a constant cycle that we’re in the middle of. I just try to find the beauty in all the stages.”

A profound platform. All aboard.