Archtober Building of the Day #20
Donald Judd Home and Studio
101 Spring Street
Architecture Research Office; Walter B. Melvin Architects
The Soho of the 1970s has come and gone, grungy artists’ studios replaced by glitzy storefronts and luxury condos. However, two decades after artist Donald Judd passed away in 1994, his presence still permeates 101 Spring Street. It’s in the nooks he carved out for his children and his books, his kitchenware and furniture, and, most of all, his art.
To Judd, 101 Spring Street was love at first sight. He purchased the cast-iron corner building in 1968 and was careful to respect the integrity of the space when setting up his life and his work. Dividing walls are kept at a minimum, and everything is arranged to leave the right angles of the windows uninterrupted. Light generously floods the interiors.
Though not an architect, the godfather of Minimalism knew a thing or two about arranging spaces. Somehow, in the master bedroom, a site-specific Dan Flavin light installation coexists in harmony with works by Claes Oldenburg and John Chamberlain. Despite the sleek metal surfaces of his work, the range of surfaces and textures in his home reveals the breadth of his taste.
The restoration, led by Architecture Research Office (ARO), was guided by Judd’s last will and testament: make necessary repairs, but leave the rest unchanged. Restorers looked through old photographs and arranged walk-throughs with Judd’s friends and visitors to determine the precise location of artworks and furniture, and everything in between. There was probably more clutter when Judd was around, but, according to our Judd Foundation guide, the artist had his own organizational systems in place. A custom-made cabinet with a very low shelf was specifically designed to store cutlery side-by-side in a single row.
According to ARO Principal Adam Yarinsky, the restoration’s main challenge was how to introduce the modern infrastructure of museums without impacting the character of the building and its art installations. In the 1960s, Judd removed all sprinklers from the third and fourth floors, claiming that they interrupted the building’s sightlines. ARO consulted with Arup to devise a fire-proofing system that would not detract from the space’s qualities. Walter B. Melvin Architects, which led the facade renovation, installed new but old-timey double-paned glass to protect the art from harmful UV rays.
Judd is gone, but his art and his legacy live on. The artist’s careful considerations, along with ARO’s precise renovation, allow the spaces to showcase the art and vice versa.