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Columbia GSAPP Studio 2018: Art House / Art Fair

In Fall 2018, vPPR taught an advanced studio called ‘Art House’ at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture (GSAPP), which explored introducing artist housing to a neighbourhood in the South Bronx, associated with Frieze Art Fair.

For one week each year in May, the entire international art community lands on Randall’s Island to buy, sell, collect, invest, review, observe, consume, discuss and display art at Frieze Art Fair. Launched in 2012, Frieze New York is now considered New York’s most important art fair, annually generating multi-million dollar revenues (a large booth costs a gallery $125,000), contributing to New York’s image as a global cultural capital. Hosted inside SO-IL’s elegantly designed tent and more recently Universal Design Studio’s “temporary town for art”1, Frieze is not only a commercial trade fair for gallerists, collectors and artists, but also a critical cultural event open to the general public as well – albeit at a price of $48 a day – programmed with an array of talks, screenings, an outdoor sculpture park, special artist commissions, fringe and outreach events, and more. For the remaining 51 weeks of the year, there is barely a trace of the art world or any lasting investment for adjacent existing communities. Should art fairs, such as Frieze, be held accountable, beyond their temporary staging, to deliver permanent social and cultural infrastructure to strengthen the local community?


Today majority-owned by Hollywood entertainment, sports, and fashion company Endeavor, Frieze has moved since its inception from media (founded first as an art magazine in 1991 by Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover in the UK) to art fairs (Frieze Art Fair was launched in 2001 in London) and now potentially to… real estate. We will hijack and interrogate Frieze’s unrealized 2016 “Frieze South Bronx” proposal by Marvel Architects, which envisaged an arts district in the South Bronx incorporating housing, art galleries, restaurants, artists’ studios and collaborative workspace across 280 acres. The project was to be located in the industrial Port Morris and Mott Haven areas, currently consisting of municipal buildings, scrap metal facilities, and family-run manufacturers. It has less than 2600 residents, of which more than 40 percent live in poverty. Only 10 minutes north from Randall’s Island, and not far from Gavin Brown’s enterprise and Elizabeth Dee Gallery, does this area have the capacity and drive to be transformed like Soho in the 1970s and Chelsea in the 2000s into a vibrant art community? Can global brand art fairs become community developers and if so, what when wrong with Frieze’s ambitious plan?2 And how can the high end art scene live side by side one of the poorest communities of New York City?


Whilst the circumstances of the Frieze’s failed plan have been buried, the studio will propose alternatives that embed art infrastructure into the community with both bottom-up and top-down strategies whilst also considering its relationship to the DCLA (New York City of Cultural Affairs) and Create NYC’s Cultural Plan published in July 2017. By appropriating certain programmatic intentions of Frieze’s brief, we will continue our investigation from last year into the potential of hybridizing places of art display and affordable housing for artists, on the premise that they are mutually interdependent for the production of art. We will propose mixed use hubs funded by Frieze combining permanent affordable housing for both existing local residents and artists, as well as art exhibition/event spaces run by the local community in affiliation with Frieze, which will be activated for fringe events during the fair. In order to succeed, the proposals must be financially sustainable and fully integrate into the community, consulting local stakeholders, and being able to control the inevitable waves of gentrification.


Over a series of short briefs, the studio researched artists, precedents, art institutions and sites to create new artist housing typologies in the South Bronx associated to Frieze Art Fair NYC. In Fall 2018, our students included:


Andrew Grant, Aris Minaretzis, Chen Xian, Fiona Ho, Kevin Sani, Yifang Zuo, Kurt Schumacher, Minhui Zhou, Suheng Li, Yifan Huang, Cynthia Wang, Mariella Tzakis

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