Monday, August 31, 2009

Defenestrate the Development Agency

One of my favorite public art pieces in San Francisco is a rundown rat trap that was a residence hotel until a fire there twenty years ago. In 1997, artist Brian Goggin turned it into the Defenestration Building with furniture crawling out the windows and up the exterior walls, some of it leaping from the roof. Couches and refrigerators and a floor lamp and an armoire not only hang off every surface, but also twist in very un-furniturelike ways. They all seem very animated, especially the spindly little end tables that scramble along like cats on ice. It’s wacky.
The building itself, not so wacky. It’s a substantial piece of real estate on a prominent corner that’s been abandoned for decades and the fact its ramshackle state adds to the dilapidation of Sixth Street is pretty damn annoying. Sixth Street is a filthy skid row that has resisted the steady efforts of the city and several very right thinking non-profits to change it for the better. I know, I’ve worked with Urban Solutions, one of the best nonprofits involved, for years and watched them struggle against the entrenched shabbiness of the area that defeats most of the businesses that try to move in there. So dealing with one of the most derelict buildings in the neighborhood is okay by me.

But the only solution the local development agency can think of is tear it down, art and all, and start over. It’s a big sturdy building, why not renovate the interior and keep the art on the outside? There’s little enough charm in the world, why destroy some on purpose?


  1. I never understand why they want to tear down these perfectly good buildings. It may not be historical but it is a part of history.
    We're so quick to erase the old.

  2. In all my many trips to San Francisco, I've never seen this building and I think I would enjoy it greatly.

    It does defy logic that a sizeable area of a densely populated city defeats improvement and use.


  3. The city I'm in is all about "in with the new and out with the old."

    No respect for history at all.

    Just one of many reasons why I'll be heading back east asap.

  4. I thought I knew the city well...& I didn't know this building. Cool post. Thanks!

  5. I would be so sad to see that go!

  6. This is way cool and I sorta like the crumbling decadence of the installation. Too bad someone can't find the funding to clean it all up.

  7. There must be something more than wrong with this building hence the furniture trying to escape it.

    Luckily I live in a city that prides itself in being 450 years old and has marvelous historical societies and downtown improvement boards in place to see that things are properly restored.

    Only after they nearly tore it all down.

  8. Fuck history, what about the quality of the products? You won't find real hard woods in the new building, you'll find pressboard and glue! Everything will be put together slap happy! I would love to have a lovely comfy chair right by that part of the unit that almost looks like a turret with the rounded windows. I could sit there with my bevvie and look at the world go by! Divine!

    (How DID they secure that furniture?)


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