Witnessing a 60 percent decline in population since its heyday in the 1950s, empty properties have become an all-too common sight in the city of St. Louis. More than 7,000 buildings are abandoned and the bulk of those dwellings are slated to be torn down. In reaction to this, the Pulitzer Arts Foundation asked: “What does a house represent, and how does it reflect our lives, desires, and dreams?”
To help form an answer, the Foundation has commissioned Berlin-based architecture studio Raumlaborberlin to create a physical reaction to their question. To prepare, the studio has been working alongside neighborhood residents and numerous figures in urban planning. For the exhibit, the studio will partially dismantle an empty property (pictured), essentially gutting it, and use its interior framework to rebuild it within the Pulitzer Gallery only a few blocks away.
As a result, the house, which sits on 4562 Enright Avenue, will survive as a shell for a few days before being finally brought to its knees and demolished in early August. This process is due to take e several days with much of the materials, most notably the brick, being resold within the community. Lending a hand a deconstruction and refabrication firm Refab. Funds from the materials will then go towards developing a youth program win the Enright neighborhood, while on July 30, a block party is being held to mark the beginning of the demolition process. The aim of this, says the Foundation, is to “reflect the house’s historical past, tenuous present, and speculative future.”
The studio’s first museum exhibition in the U.S., the exhibition will also offer video interviews carried out by Raumlaborberlin with local residents touching on the economic and social factors contributing to the urban dereliction.
“It’s a microcosm that exists across all American cities,” said Cara Starke, the Foundation’s director, speaking about the project in the New York Times. “The proceeds from the sale of the wood and bricks from the original house are to be reinvested into landscaping and youth programming in the Enright Avenue community.
“So many stakeholders have come together to create shared goals,” Starke added. “We’ll see how this persists past the project.” The exhibition, dubbed raumlaborberlin:4562 Enright Avenue, will run through October 15.