Transfer Work


For the drawing, I wanted to examine a building at 68 Jay Street in Dumbo, Brooklyn, quite close to the site I mentioned last week. The building was built in the daylight factory style in 1915 by a New York Architect called William Higginson. From what I can tell, Higginson did a lot of work in the Dumbo area, working for Robert Gair on a nearby series of buildings known as ‘Gairville’ next to the Manhattan Bridge.


Postcard of the Grand Union Tea Company in the late 19th Century (I’m assuming that this will be an artists rendering, but note the consistent arched windows and delivery bays at ground floor)

The building was used as a warehouse for the Grand Union Tea Company and saw the owners, the Jones Brothers go from a small business to the “largest warehouse and factory in the United States for teas, coffees, spices, flavoring extracts, baking-powders and soaps”. Due to its aesthetic and structure being representative of very early 20th Century American Factory Architecture, and also the fact that the Jones Brothers played a large role in establishing the Dumbo district as an important industrial area, the building is hugely significant for the area.

Moving up through time, the structure has been altered and adapted for various needs. In the 80’s it was swapped between banks and retail use, which is most likely when many of the original windows, with their arched elements, were knocked out and replaced with square windows, presumably for increased daylight. Its quite easy to spot the differences with the concrete sills and lintels and the disappearance of glazing bar elements. Also, the ground floor level has been filled in at some point. During the Grand Union Tea Company days, the ground floor held a number of delivery docks, with which horse drawn wagons, and later trucks, could be loaded with goods. Now the ground floor houses shop fronts etc. The building displays this change like a scar, with a change in brick color.


68 Jay Street in the Present Day (Note the change in windows and ground level)

At the present day, 68 Jay Street becomes a support for various forms of infill. This infill comprises of small business, bars, bakeries, artists studios, architects offices, coworking spaces and business startup work spaces. In particular, the DUMBO startup lab provides space, events, coworking and consultation for startups and freelancers etc.

What I find interesting about the building is the sense of worth it has retained through the various changes in use and appropriation. The building  now acts as an incubator for a number of businesses, and so many have found worth and created a reason for the structure to continue through time, not just to stand in place, but to become, as Bergson stated. Time is not about existing, but about becoming, but rather about constantly and consistently changing.

So not only do we have propelling force through and over time in the form of desire, of the creation of worth and subsequently the sustenance of this creation, but we also have a series of marks, of joints, of scars which intertwine with this creation and re appropriation. So the building presents to me a number of ways in which to examine the theory of time and the conditions for the creation of worth.

So the drawing attempts to layer up the uses and events by layering significant images. Although I wanted a certain degree of indeterminacy in the image to represent durational time in relation to the structure, I think it is too indeterminate. The transfer technique is a bit too ill defined. The first image shows a horse drawn wagon, a factory scene, and the modern day Jay Street bar logo overlaid over the ground floor, trying to create a transparency and simultaneity between the three, but it is very hard to see on first glance. I tried to situate the transfers as rather less determined than the linework of the facade elevation which, through computer drawn CAD is rather more fixed and immutable, but I think the whole thing gets lost. The Grand union Tea Company logo is also in there, laid over a flyer for a coworking event at the startup lab, with an image of the architects office transferred too.

In the end, I found an interesting by product of transferring onto printed drawings was that pieces of the receiving medium tended to become transferred onto the material intended to be transferred, which created an interesting reciprocal process. So after seeing the really confused initial image, I decided to try and collage the transfers onto the drawing, which could be the start of an interesting experiment. I think the next step might be to print the receiver image, ie. the linework on inkjet. That way the ink will not immediately come off when transferred onto. At the moment I’m undermining the fixity of the linework.

68 Jay street transfer sheet68 Jay street transfer collage

I think next I want to clarify this drawing a lot more, maybe look into other techniques or mediums which present a much clearer image. I also will put together a series of transparent pages exploding my previous drawings and providing the theoretical durational ‘joint’ between the images (instants) that I’ve produced so far.

2 thoughts on “Transfer Work

  1. As a way of moving this forward, I’ve decided to stretch time across three instants. 1915 (construction), 1980’s (bank takeover/ windows changing) – 2015 (retail/ startups). So there will be 3 planes to the drawing set physically some distance apart. These planes will have physical windows in them behind which I will suspend a series of trace or acetate sheets with prints on them. I’m thinking to move beyond trace because after two sheets it gets very very distorted, whereas if I layer up acetate, at least I can reveal more in certain areas and create more clarity across more sheets and images, whilst maintaining the indeterminacy I need in creating the durational ‘confused’ sequence.

    Each instant will be a sheet with the building (drawn as would have been at the time relevant to the particular instant) with the linework transferred on. Only I will cut away at the linework and connect the linework across the three planes, creating consistencies across the durational time. The idea is the physical construction of the building is the thread between all these instants, the constant over the fluctuations of durational time.

  2. The build up of transfer imagery is interesting but perhaps it’s the scale that’s wrong – the transfers don’t seem to relate to the line drawing and it would be interesting if they worked together better as a composition. The changes that you track in the development of the building and how it was altered and added to over time are interesting and that might be a good thing to add to the line drawing to give a sense of the building as an aggregation of form over time. And then use the transfers to give life to the composition in terms of signage, occupiers etc.

    The right hand side image looks more convincing than the left – it would be great to give us a sense of looking through all these layers of time to see the changing building behind it. Or you could make two drawings, one documenting the physical change of the building, and the other (a developed version of your current drawing) that shows the occupational changes of the building over time through the transfer technique. Having now read your comment about using layers of trace and acetate, as well as changing the drawing of the building with each layer – we think this method will work well and do exactly what is missing from the drawing at the moment.

    If you are concentrating on the three moments in time to create the three planes we wonder if you are missing some potential. What about scars or changes occuring outside of these three moments? Where do they belong in your representation of change and continuity? If you are going to continue with the 3 moments how do you show the in-between times?

    And here is a final question to mull over! – Alterations over time are often regarded as lessening the authenticity of a building. Whereas, more interestingly, you say that the later uses have allowed the building to ‘become’ and that the building is in a constant state of becoming. Is it then some how ‘less’ the building in its original state, prior to the advancing journey of becoming? Over time does it somehow become ‘more’ the building? …

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