For their first joint commission, Chicago-based artists Amanda Williams (b. 1974) and Andres L. Hernandez (b. 1974) will activate an empty land parcel across the street from the Pulitzer, as well as the lot's adjacent building at 3721 Washington Boulevard, which has been slated for demolition. A Way, Away (Listen While I Say) is part of PXSTL, a design-build project collaboratively organized by the Pulitzer Arts Foundation with the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. Through their interventions, Williams and Hernandez address building and unbuilding as both topic and methodology. By ritualizing the process at each stage, the artists ask the public to pause and evaluate the life cycle of buildings, the often-invisible processes of demolition, and our relationship to public space. Poetically suggested by the title, the project contends with themes of connection to place, love, loss, and healing.
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. 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 it prior to demolition. 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 salvaged bricks from the building and ground cover. The project will conclude in the fall with a communal disassembling of this constructed landscape and regeneration of green space. Public programs will be organized during each phase of the project.
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.