For their first joint commission, Chicago-based artists Amanda Williams and Andres L. Hernandez will create a temporary space for community programs and events on the vacant lot across from the Pulitzer. A Way, Away (Listen While I Say) is part of PXSTL, a design-build project collaboratively organized by the Pulitzer with the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. The project will activate both the land and the building adjacent to it, which has been slated for demolition. In so doing, Williams and Hernandez will address the idea of building and “unbuilding” as both topic and methodology.
The artists have designed the project to unfold in five stages—Marking, Subtracting, Translating, Shaping, and Healing—that parallel the cyclical phases of demolition and construction. Their process embraces the uncertain and precarious, and each stage will be informed by contemporary issues in urban planning and policy, architecture, art, landscape, construction, and related fields. Beginning by engaging the structurally unsound 95-year-old building adjacent to the land parcel, Williams and Hernandez will paint the building gold to mark and honor the it prior to its demolition. Then, together with local contractors, students, artists, designers, and stakeholders in the Grand Center Arts District, the artists will reshape the topographical contours of the landscape, using bricks from the building and ground cover. Finally, the project will conclude in the fall with a communal disassembling of this constructed landscape and regeneration of green space. During each phase, the site will be open to the public as a location for arts programming and participatory projects.
In conjunction with the development of their design, Williams and Hernandez participated in a teaching residency at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts in fall 2016, co-teaching a studio for students in the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Design with Sam Fox School lecturer Jonathan Stitelman. Using demolition as a point of departure, students gathered broken bricks—a material rich with local and architectural significance—from the site of a previous Pulitzer project, raumlaborberlin: 4562 Enright Avenue. Students then actively investigated, researched, and experimented with ideas of building and unbuilding by repurposing these reclaimed bricks. Through studio-based projects, a field trip to Chicago, and a charrette with local community members, students engaged with social and spatial practices, integrating innovative design applications and community-oriented research.
PXSTL—an acronym that stands for the Pulitzer, Sam Fox School, and St. Louis—was created through the collaborative efforts of the two institutions, and was founded on the belief that creative interventions have the power to serve as meaningful catalysts for urban transformation. The first PXSTL commission, designed by Freecell Architecture in summer 2014, became the site for performances, readings, symposia, picnics, and art installations.