Chelsea was once an industrial and manufacturing district in Manhattan. That began to rapidly change in 2005 when the area was rezoned to allow for residential development. The size and open interiors of the many former factories and warehouses made perfect spaces for art galleries. Soon they dominated the ground level floors of blocks between 14th and 23rd street. Another significant catalyst for change in the neighborhood came with the transformation of an abandoned industrial rail line into a park everyone now knows as the Highline. The success of the park created a boom in real estate and development and spurred what has become something of an architects playground. What was once a forgotten corner of the city is today one of the most expensive to acquire space in.
Alan Ruiz explores Chelsea’s transformation with a series of threshold installations at NYC’s Kitchen gallery. WS-C-62A and WS-C-62B are constructed of aluminum, glass and steel and act as dividers within the Kitchen’s dark cavernous interior. Ruiz historically incorporates commercial building products in his work. The portals represent both the expansion outward and skyward of luxury developments in the neighborhood as well as the way this kind of architecture creates separation between those inhabitants and the rest of the public.
This installation blurs the boundary between art installation and a facade mockup for some new hypothetical luxury residence tower. The forms are sharp and cold and look like the product of a Revit induced nightmare. I’ve said in the past that a lot of recent luxury residential development in NYC looks like storage units for humans. For me, Ruiz’s work speaks to the stylistic commercialization and pseudo placemaking that’s a hallmark of large scale residential architecture these days.
Photos and Text: Dave Pinter