Donald Judd’s Newly Restored Building at 101 Spring Street
Caption: 101 Spring Street, New York, Exterior, 2013, © Judd Foundation, Courtesy Judd Foundation Archives

Donald Judd’s Newly Restored Building at 101 Spring Street in New York

Architecture Research Office as Architects

"The interrelation of the architecture of 101 Spring Street, its own and what I've invented, with the pieces installed there, has led to many of my newer, larger pieces, ones involving whole spaces. Several main ideas have come from thinking about the spaces and the situation of that building." - Donald Judd, 1977

When Donald Judd’s New York City building in the SoHo Cast Iron Historic District opens to the public in June 2013 after a three-year restoration, visitors will experience Judd’s home and studio as originally installed by the artist. The restoration of 101 Spring Street began on June 3, 2010 (the artist’s birthday) and will conclude three years later. Donald Judd lived in the building with his family beginning in 1968, and it was his New York studio until his death in 1994.

Guided visits with artist guides will be offered for small groups by appointment through an online ticketing system and by telephone. Visitors will be guided through all floors of the home, including Judd’s studio, kitchen, and his stately fifth-floor bedroom, which is installed with a floorto- ceiling 1969 Dan Flavin fluorescent light piece, extending the length of the loft space.

Each floor will remain as installed by Donald Judd with pieces from his collection of over 500 objects, including original sculpture, paintings, drawings, prints, and furniture designed by For Immediate Release: Donald Judd’s Newly Restored Building at 101 Spring Street To Open in June 2013 2 Judd and others. Judd installed artworks by Jean Arp, Carl Andre, Larry Bell, John Chamberlain, Marcel Duchamp, Dan Flavin, David Novros, Claes Oldenburg, Ad Reinhardt, Lucas Samaras, and Frank Stella throughout the building, all of which viewers will be able to explore.

Overseen by board members Flavin Judd and Rob Beyer, the restoration project shares the same goal and mission of Judd Foundation: to preserve Judd’s living and working spaces and promote a wider understanding and appreciation of Donald Judd’s legacy. The New York City design firm Architecture Research Office (ARO), led Judd Foundation’s project team of consultants, which includes a preservation architect and engineers.

Flavin Judd, Judd Foundation Co-President and son of the artist, reflects, “We worked hard to preserve all aspects of the original building and also all of Don’s modifications to it. He worked on the building on and off for over 20 years so there is a lot of history and development. We tried to change as little as possible, because the building is already great, and there is no need for improvement, just careful maintenance. This was 101 Spring Street’s 140-year check-up. Unfortunately it needed surgery, but it shouldn’t need anything else for at least another 140 years.”

Explains Judd Foundation Co-President and daughter of the artist, Rainer Judd, “The careful and high-quality restoration of 101 Spring Street is an achievement not only for Judd Foundation, in its service of the goals of Donald Judd, but also for the art community and the Historic Preservation Community. With this restoration, I am proud to say that an exquisite building has been most sensitively restored and Judd’s home and studio is able to be shared with the community and the public.”

ARO’s Principal Adam Yarinsky, FAIA, adds, “Our goal has been to preserve Donald Judd’s vision for the building and make it accessible to the public, while satisfying contemporary building requirements. The entire design team worked with creativity, diligence, and sensitivity to resolve the complex challenges involved in reconciling these objectives.”

Art and Furniture, Floor by Floor Arriving at the building, visitors can view through the first-floor windows Carl Andre’s Manifest Destiny (1986); a vertical stack of carefully placed “Empire” bricks that balance on the wooden floors. This is just one of many artworks that were meticulously de-installed from the building before the restoration began, with precise records kept regarding the placement and positioning for each object. There is also one Donald Judd work installed and an antique, oak, rolltop desk that Judd found in the building, restored, and kept. Initially utilized by Judd as his early studio, the first floor will be used as an event and lecture space for Judd Foundation. From the first floor, visitors will be escorted by staircase to explore the building floor by floor.

On the second floor, there is a Judd-designed kitchen, bathroom, shelving, and loft area. Notable artworks include Ad Reinhardt’s Red Painting (1952) and a David Novros fresco commissioned by Judd in 1970. With the building restoration, the Foundation commenced with the careful conservation of this Novros fresco, which will continue after the main work on the building is completed.

The third floor, which served as Judd’s formal studio, houses his large-scale floor piece, Untitled (1969), and features rough plaster walls and a small library—both of which inspired Judd’s spaces and libraries in Marfa, Texas, but on a much grander scale. There is also a second large Judd floor piece from 1989, a small 1970 glass and stainless steel cube work by Larry Bell, Judd’s drafting table, and an Alvar Aalto table paired with his “No. 31” chairs.

On the fourth floor, visitors will view Judd-designed tables and benches and a large-scale Frank Stella painting, Concentric Circles (1967). Gerrit Rietveld’s Zig-Zag chairs (1934/1984) and an Etruscan bronze sconce and candelabra complete the installation in the main space. Other artworks on the floor include several early works from Dan Flavin’s Icons series, as well as early drawings, Alvar Aalto furniture, and a Japanese polychrome silk print.

The fifth floor main space first served as the bedroom of Judd and then-wife Julie Finch in the 1970s. Judd also created a loft space and small bedroom for his young children, Flavin and Rainer, respectively, as well as a bathroom and closet area for the family. Highlights of artworks on 3 this floor include two early Judd wall pieces from 1962 and 1963, as well as a Dan Flavin fluorescent work, which mirrors the cast iron windows that line the Mercer Street side of the building. Other artworks featured are John Chamberlain’s Mr. Press (1961), Lucas Samaras’ Knife Pencil Box (1973), Marcel Duchamp’s In Advance of the Broken Arm (1964), and Claes Oldenburg’s Light Fixtures at La Coupole (1964). Furniture on this floor includes a Judd-designed platform bed (1970), and a 19th-century Italian settee.

The Restoration: After Donald Judd’s purchase of the building in 1968, his approach to its renovation initially focused on well-considered interior modifications for his and his family’s use. This process of modification and restoration continued until the end of Judd’s life.

In 2002, Judd Foundation installed protective scaffolding that remained in place for a decade. The scaffolding was removed in July 2012, revealing the building’s façade with 1,300 restored pieces of original cast iron.

The building itself has been restored with the dual goals of non-interference to the original structure and to Judd’s interventions, and studies were done with art and environmental conservationists, as well as historic preservationists, to devise ways to improve conditions for the art without altering Judd’s carefully designed and installed spaces. Its dramatic, light-filled rooms feature a higher ratio of glass to façade than other buildings of its era, which is an example of the strength and ingenuity of cast-iron construction in 1870, the year 101 Spring Street was erected.

The restoration involved repairing and replacing the original cast-iron façade and windows; modifying the building’s fire, life safety, and other infrastructure to meet code and safety requirements; cleaning and treating the artworks and objects Judd collected; and reconfiguring the lower levels to serve the Foundation’s administrative needs. The plan not only upholds the building’s original design and structure, but also carefully preserves the permanent installation of artworks, a key aspect of Judd’s legacy. These improvements ensure both the longevity of the historic landmark and public access to it in the future.

The basement of 101 Spring Street is a non-public space with new offices, work areas, and a small kitchen, each following the layout of the existing pine partitions originally created by Judd. The sub-basement level includes new ADA accessible restrooms, a conference room, and storage closets. Significant space in both basement levels contains HVAC, electrical, plumbing and fire protection infrastructure.

Throughout the restoration project, 101 Spring Street has been closed, but Judd Foundation remains active through various programs, events, and projects, including work on developing the Judd catalogue raisonné.

101 Spring Street: Constructed in 1870 by Nicholas Whyte, the five-story building is the last surviving, single-use, cast-iron building in its neighborhood, a distinction that has earned 101 Spring Street the highest designation for national significance as part of the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District. It is also among the founding sites of the Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Purchased by Donald Judd in 1968, the building became his studio and primary residence, where he formalized his ideas regarding “permanent installation,” his philosophy that a work of art’s placement is critical to one’s understanding of the work itself. The building’s open space and lack of internal walls provided the ideal environment for the placement of the artist’s works and those of other artists he admired.

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