^Eat your heart out, Michael Arrad.
October 8, 2006
7 Stories of Water in a 2-Story Building
By JOSH BARBANEL
AS he traveled the world over the last several decades, from Africa to the American Southwest, Jean-Louis Bourgeois, an architectural historian, advocate for environmental rights and 21st-century hipster, had a vision of the often-forgotten role of water in human existence.
Now Mr. Bourgeois, with the assistance of his mother, the sculptor Louise Bourgeois, said he plans to bring that vision to life in an unusual museum dedicated to water in a small, sagging, historic wood-frame building he bought two weeks ago for $2.2 million. It faces West Street and the Hudson River in the Far West Village, just off Christopher Street, and backs up to Weehawken Street.
Mr. Bourgeois, 66, will live in part of the building, until recently the home of a pornographic video store, and before that a series of gay bars, including Choo Choo’s Pier and Sneakers. His plans for the museum include a seven-story waterfall that his mother has agreed to design, he said.
Mr. Bourgeois outbid several other prospective buyers, according to Jenifer Cook, a broker at the Corcoran Group who worked on the transaction. She said he cut an unusual figure during negotiations, wearing a large blue foam “Cat in the Hat” hat and wheeling a Winnie the Pooh suitcase as a videographer recorded the proceedings. At the closing, he was accompanied by an entourage of aides and a spiritual adviser.
Mr. Bourgeois described the building on Weehawken Street in a paper he prepared on his new museum: “Like a long-lost wanderer in the desert, I had discovered my oasis, a place in the city where I was born, that would nourish my lifelong passion, water.”
The museum will never be another Metropolitan. The building has only two floors and 2,800 square feet of space. Asked how a seven-story waterfall would fit into a two-story building, he said it would flow through the building and then underground, though friends have warned him that excavation may be difficult in an area so close to the river.
The building is one of the last wood-frame buildings on the New York waterfront and is part of the Weehawken Street Historic District, which was designated last May, in response to neighborhood worries about rapid development. It is listed as the last surviving part of a city market popularly known as the Weehawken Market that was built in 1836 on the site of the Newgate State Prison.
Mr. Bourgeois has two other homes: one near Taos, N.M., and the other in Djenné, in Mali in West Africa, upriver from Timbuktu. Both houses are made out of adobe, and he and his late wife, Carolee Pelos, a photographer, published a book on adobe architecture, “Spectacular Vernacular: The Adobe Tradition” (Aperture Foundation, 1989), now used as a textbook.
He calls his new building an “earthscraper,” in contrast to Richard Meier's new condominium towers a few blocks to the north, and said he plans to devote his first exhibition to a critique of Mr. Meier’s work and its effect on small-scale neighborhoods.
In much of her art, Louise Bourgeois, 94, has delved into her childhood and what she has described as the complicated relationships in her family as she grew up outside of Paris. Mr. Bourgeois said his mother, who lives in Chelsea and hasn’t left her house in many years, provided the money to buy the building “because she much prefers that I spend more time here in New York.”
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
Last edited by ManhattanKnight; October 7th, 2006 at 03:18 PM.
^Eat your heart out, Michael Arrad.
God Bless ya, Mr. Bourgeois (and yer ma, for coming up with the 2.2 million clams).
How can you not love this guy ...
Villager photo by Elissa Bogos
Jean-Louis Bourgeois, left, with Phil Sauers, founder of the World Water Rescue Foundation,
in front of 6 Weehawken St., where Bourgeois plans a new water museum.
The plastic structure between them is a preliminary scale model by Bourgeois’s mother,
the sculptor Louise Bourgeois, of a seven-story, subterranean “World Waterfall.”
Sauers has accepted Bourgeois’s invitation to participate in the museum’s development.
Bourgeois held a personal water jug from Mali called a sintal.
Fittingly, it was raining.
In his own words:
One day, as I was walking toward the Hudson, I turned north off Christopher St. onto one-block Weehawken St., the shortest street in Manhattan. I saw that No. 6 was for sale. Like a long-lost wanderer in the desert, I had discovered my oasis, a place in the city where I was born, that would nourish my lifelong passion, water.I am an architectural historian, co-author with my late wife, photographer Carollee Pelos, of “Spectacular Vernacular, The Adobe Tradition.” Carollee would have savored the irony of our book being adopted last year as an undergraduate course book in African culture at Harvard, where it took me 20 years to get my undergraduate degree.In Mali, West Africa, I helped to stall construction of the large Talo Dam that may still starve more than 20,000 people and destroy a river culture, by bringing the issue to the attention of the U.S. Treasury Department. They initiated a four-year construction moratorium on the African Development Bank’s scandalously designed project.The original structure of my new home and museum in New York was built around 1849. It was landmarked last May. It is tiny — two-and-a-half stories high and 30 feet square. It has two facades — one facing Weehawken St., the other the river. It was formerly called an “oyster house.”
Being a homeowner in Greenwich Village will give me legal standing to work on local preservation issues. To give an example, I intend to challenge the design of the proposed luxury tower of the nearby “Whitehall Site.” If built as planned, the project’s deep, huge “bathtub basement” would divert underground water directly into my basement, as well as many others.One of the Earthscaper’s first exhibitions will be about the architect Richard Meier. Meier is said to have boasted that his expansion of the Getty Museum in California was the first building in history to cost more than $1 billion. His nearby Greenwich Village glass towers, examples of “technological exhibitionism,” are totally out of scale in our generally low-rise area; they block neighborhood access to the river a couple of streets north of Weehawken St.
Above and just south of the Earthscraper rise two billboards. I plan to rent them to announce my show about Meier. Motorists driving north along the river will see the billboards just before they drive by the Meier complex. The name of the exhibition will be “Richard Meier Is the Anti-Christ. Amen.”In the anti-ostentation spirit of Charles Moore’s underground museum at Dartmouth, the Earthscraper is intended to introduce a new major model for the practice of urban architecture. May its lesson not fall on deaf ears! It is no coincidence that the Earthscraper will resemble nothing so much as a Meier tower inverted.
The “The World Waterfall” will use and recycle only pure, unpolluted water — increasingly known as “sweet water” — taken from sites around the world. Like the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., the names of those who bring the water, its source and the date of the gift will be inscribed on a large “World Water Wall.”The museum will also have a waterless, composting toilet that in Mali, is called a nyéguin. Only people eating organic food exclusively will be allowed to use this toilet. The nyéguin will compost the waste into organic fertilizer, allowing people to re-enter the food-fertilizer cycle.I have thought hard about what to call my new museum. Related to the word “Ontario,” The Native Nation term “Kandario” means “beautiful water.”
The museum’s opening festivities will coincide with World Water Day, March 22, 2007.I look forward to many happy trips, the wind in my hair, on New York Water Taxis — between my mother’s Chelsea home and mine in the Village, between the 23rd St. Frying Pan pier and the Christopher St. Pier, an oyster shell’s throw from my new home and museum.
Info on the Whitehall Storage Building site ...... I intend to challenge the design of the proposed luxury tower of the nearby “Whitehall Site.” If built as planned, the project’s deep, huge “bathtub basement” would divert underground water directly into my basement, as well as many others.
ablarc, once again you drive me to google ... truly, thanks!!
I particularly like this part of the explanation:
Flâneur is typically well aware of his slow, leisurely behaviour and had been known to exemplify this state of being by walking turtles on leashes down the streets of Paris
Although it seems that Msr. Bourgeois would more correctly be labeled, due to his activites in the field, a hyphenated Flâneur, of sorts.
Perhaps a Flâneur-Taon?
Or a Flâneur-Gêneur??
I don't think the definition is to be taken so literally.
I vaguely remember reading some Baudelaire, who kept talking about the flaneur as a new type of Parisian - a stroller, a casual observer of streetlife, so to speak. Seems to fit well with this guy, who discovered his oasis on just one of these kinds of walks. It also works to explain why he doesn't like Meier.
^ On this board, I think it's safe to say we're all flaneurs.
Though it does cement your standing to do something antic in public from time to time.
(Such as give an interview in the rain.)
Does anyone remember Moondog?
^ They're not so bad.
That being said, I find his whole Meier obsession hysterical, and more power to him. Everybody deserves to be knocked down a peg every now and again. Keeps you honest.