Donald Judd Building in Marfa restored by Schaum/Shieh Architects
A Donald Judd building in the historic district of Central Marfa, Texas, was sensitively brought into the 21st century by the Schaum/Shieh architecture studio of Houston and New York
The Central Marfa Historic District in Marfa, Texas, which includes 11 buildings redesigned and preserved by Donald Judd, may be newly recognized on the United States National Register of Historic Places, but its cultural and architectural significance is more deeply rooted, it’s the least we can say. Exceptionally maintained and made accessible to the public by the Chinati Foundation and the Judd Foundation, Judd’s structures in the historic Hispanic community include the John Chamberlain Building, named after the American sculptor, which recently reopened after a restoration by Schaum/Shieh Architects . Originally a 1940s wool and mohair warehouse, this Donald Judd building was adapted by the artist into a gallery space dedicated to Chamberlain’s work and first opened to the public in 1983.
When the building fell into the hands of Shaum/Shieh, much of the structure had deteriorated after being battered by the strong desert winds. Needing reinforcement, the company began a period of study with engineers and archivists to collaboratively design restoration techniques for the original building.
“We knew we had to take special care to complete a restoration that didn’t lose the ‘as found’ character of the historic building when we put the pieces together,” says Troy Schaum, half of the firm, which is based between Houston and New York. By working with models and drawings, the company was able to reduce the layers of Judd’s own interventions to the original structure.
“What’s remarkable is the tremendous effort that Judd has put into adapting and working on this building; his use of selective erasure to build alignments from the existing body. This can be seen very clearly when studying the historic photos of the building before he acquired it,” explains architect Rosalyne Shieh. ? You see it in the elemental square windows, the bareness of the stepped facade, and the adobe walls that extend and enclose, transforming the project into a site and a building.
In partnership with JC Stoddard Construction, a company experienced in work on the Alamo and other historic structures in Texas, the building’s facade was reconstructed, its roof was replaced and structurally reinforced, and new skylights were added. installed to protect and improve the quality of light in the galleries. in the 23,000 square foot space. Outside, the Judd-designed sotol garden has been repaired and restored, while the building’s landings have been redone to include ramps, in accordance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
Fourteen of Judd’s ‘2 over 2’ pivoting windows and doors have also been exactly rebuilt – this time with the addition of a built-in hidden steel frame so they can be functional after being closed for decades. Crafted from pine wood and treated with turpentine and linseed oil to give a unique patina, these Marfa-specific windows embody the spirit that underlies all restoration. §