PRINT May 2013


the Judd Foundation’s 101 Spring Street

Donald Judd’s library prior to restoration, third floor, 101 Spring Street, New York, 2010. Photo: Mauricio Alejo. © Judd Foundation.


THE RESTORATION PROJECT was like a puzzle: How could we update 101 Spring Street for safe public occupancy while keeping it the way Don had wanted? Since I grew up in the building, I could refer to conversations I had with my father about different parts of the building, or at least about similar circumstances. When we didn’t have a historical precedent for solving a particular problem, we simply had to do the best we could. Fortunately, Rob Beyer, who was the other Judd Foundation board member leading the project, helped pick a great team, which included Guy Nordenson on the foundation’s Building Committee, Architecture Research Office as project architects, Walter B. Melvin Architects as preservation specialists, Robert Silman Associates as structural engineers, and Arup as fire-safety consultants.

Often, finding the solution to a problem is a matter of asking the question in the right way. Once you’ve found the common philosophy underlying multiple questions it’s easier to come up with consistent answers. Don was always consistent because he applied the same rules to everything, from walls to furniture. And he had driven this into my skull for years: He taught me that you learn to make buildings by making sensible bookshelves. In the end, some of the problems we faced were extremely difficult to solve, such as keeping the interior stairway open while meeting fire-code requirements. Guy helped come up with a solution that probably wouldn’t have occurred to most people. Other problems were complicated and laborious but relatively straightforward: The cast-iron facade, for example, was disassembled piece by piece and shipped to Robinson Iron in Alabama, where each piece was examined and either repaired or recast, depending on its condition. This was the same level of care you would devote to restoring an artwork, and 101 Spring Street is an artwork, in a sense. While there are individual pieces of art and furniture throughout the building, I see it as one thing. Our goal was to keep that unity intact. Don devised this wondrous space so that it all fit together—hopefully, our work is invisible.

Flavin Judd is Copresident of the board of directors of the Judd Foundation.