Preservation and stewardship are not the first words that spring to mind when you think of the Storefront for Art and Architecture, but the 26-year-old institution has just completed a meticulous restoration of its well-known pivoting facade, designed by Steven Holl and Vito Acconci in 1993.
The facade was originally intended to be the first of a series of two-year collaborative installations. “That program was not continued in part because of financial constraints, but primarily because New York fell in love with the facade,” said executive director Joseph Grima. Storefront’s board, which includes AN’s editor-in-chief William Menking, undertook an unprecedented fundraising effort to complete the restoration. Longtime supporters were committed to the project because, according to Grima, “the facade is emblematic of our mission of porosity, interdisciplinarity, and change.”
The restoration returns the facade to its original state, with a few key changes. Using the same metal frame system, the contractors replaced the 1/8-inch-thick super board cladding, which had cracked and badly deteriorated since it was first installed, and is no longer in production, with 1/4-inch-thick concrete panels. Another significant but barely visible change: accessibility. Workers cut one of the wall panels down to grade, poured a tiny ramp, and extended the corresponding pivoting panels. “Vito, especially, thought that accessibility was an extremely important issue that needed to be addressed,” Grima said. Less noticeable to the average visitor, Storefront’s basement office now has air conditioning, and the bathroom has been upgraded.
Holl and Acconci were not directly involved in the restoration. The board and Pernilla Ohrstedt, a designer on staff at Storefront, oversaw the project. Much of the work was donated by IBEX Construction, along with sponsors Rieder, consulting architect Jerome S. Gillman, and others.