LES – Tenement Chic

Tenement Chic?

Excerpt from a Walking tour of the LES by urban historian Barry Feldman

Garish grotesques, mythical beasts, beautiful botanicals, ornate cornices, columns and pilasters are a few examples of  architectural ornamentation that adorn otherwise drab nineteenth century tenements.  Who were the anonymous artisans who created these treasures?  What changes in technology allowed for the rich array of ornamental application?  What motivated building developers and landlords to increase construction costs to accommodate ornamental details?

I’m working towards the uncollectibles for my museum and looking into more detail each site and cataloguing my in-situ uncollectibles, its qualities and language each has.


This cast iron façade is one of the few remaining in the LES  and part of it has been removed in order to make room for a new street in the early 1900’s; and in particular the details of the cast iron elements will become part of the visual inventory for the museum.Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 13.48.42

This quick sketch collage represents one of the uncollectibles that Im looking into developing as a model – the model will be a zoom in version looking at the uncollectible details of the cast iron façade and its adornments. 

Model View

Im also starting to thinking of the language that the intervention will develop for each of the stairways, so that they are different from one another and tell a different story as a pilgrimage.

I like to explore the thresholds and voids and what each reveal or is concealing, I was thinking about the RA Sensing Spaces and how the intervention by Pezo von Ellrichshausen was experienced and connected to the rooms in which was inserted.

I would like to provide the pilgrim with a view from a vantage point. This view – not obvious from approaching it but it gradually unfolding and revealing entrances and stairways that lead up the impossible and at time narrow stairs…  unfolding to viewing platforms or private enclosed rooms – there, these apertures allow the pilgrim to experience up close the details of this ornate facades at eye level, before climbing further stairs leading to a summit or to a view of another uncollectible…. As Louis Kahn says, ‘A stair isn’t something you get out of a catalogue, but a very important event in a building’.

These are some initial ideas for one site and I’m trying to establish a narrative for each of the uncollectibles and I would like to make a sketch model and illustration for each of these (they will become each of the post cards for the pilgrimage– and with that include a folded series of the drawings and info for each intervention).

I also came across the work of Taturo Atzu a Japanese artist that currently has an installation on Columbus Circus – Meet Columbus and his interventions are very similar to the ideas we discussed Tuesday!





One thought on “LES – Tenement Chic

  1. Looking forward to seeing the model. It’s hard to tell at this stage what considerations you are making for its materiality. What relationship will this have to the facade? The quote speculates on the artisans that might have created the ornamentation, what is the relationship of the details to craft and to mass production? And is this part of the story that you take into your stair?

    Continue to think about the placement of the stairs and their summit and how you can frame and create otherwise unobtainable perspectives. The seam where the cast iron facade terminates is very intriguing and tells a whole story about change, value judgement, preservation. If you chose to bring attention to this how can you make this experience without obscuring the overall strangeness that I imagine you already get from street level. What would be the different experiences of a zigzagging stair clinging to the building vs a steep pencil thin stair standing rigid half a metre from the seam? Experiment with different placements and some rough extremes of form which we talked a bit about on Tuesday.

    Pezo von Ellrichshausen’s stairs were hidden within their own structure – picking up on this, in considering the form, placement and materiality of your stairs think about how you can gradually reveal the stairs at street level perhaps at first the stairs appear to lead into the building, are camouflaged in a brick bulk, etc

    There is so much you can enjoy working through here. You are right to work on detailing specific examples but also take an overview so you can quickly sketch and model variety and different possibilities.

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