In 1969, Richard Feigen commissioned the Austrian architect Hans Hollein to redesign an 1887 row house and convert it into a two-story gallery and residence for his own use. The gallery has changing floor levels and ceiling heights and a balcony overlooking the ground floor. The sinuous staircase rail linking the gallery spaces has an ocean liner quality. This nautical theme is carried over in the stainless steel capsule bathroom, hidden behind a hatch. The finely crafted materials and elegant fixtures contrast effectively with brightly painted steel air-conditioning pipes.
Feigen Gallery technical information
- Architects : Hans Hollein
- Typology : Retail Architecture / Gallery, Shop
- Location: New York, United States
- Completion year: 1969
- Client: Richard L. Feigen
- Images: © Franz Hubmann
Architects have to stop thinking in terms of buildings only. Built and physical architecture, freed from the technological limitations of the past, will more intensely work with spatial qualities as well as the psychological ones. The process of erection will get a new meaning, spaces will more consciously have haptic, optic and acoustic properties.
A true architecture of our time will have to redefine itself and to expand its means. Many areas outside traditional building will enter the realm of architecture, as architecture and “architects” will have to enter new fields. All are architects. Everything is architecture.’
– “Everything is architecture“, Hans Hollein announced in the 1968 (1/2) edition of the “Bau“ journal.
Feigen Gallery Photographs
Feigen Gallery Description
Extracts of the Article HANS HOLLEIN: The Showroom Master by ROBERT WIESENBERGER
“Three years after the Retti shop, the eminent gallerist Richard L. Feigen asked Hollein to design an Upper East Side New York location for his gallery. Feigen had been assembling an exhibition of “visionary architecture” for his downtown gallery, with works by Buckminster Fuller, Frei Otto, Claes Oldenburg, and others.”
“Passing through a grid of windows into the double-height main gallery, visitors could follow the sinuous line of a polished Art Deco handrail up a flight of stairs to the second floor, and around to a double-curved viewing balcony – evocative of a theater box, an ocean liner, a pair of breasts. This offered a view onto the salon-style hanging across the way, and more importantly, the society spectacle of a gallery opening below. Alternatively, following the choreography of the sale, one could pass to the rear of the ground floor, through two smaller galleries, and into a back room – as long and nearly as wide as the main gallery.”
Yet Hollein’s gallery was better at displaying itself than its art. “Nothing really worked well in that space,” Feigen recalls. His contemporary artists refused to show there, and many left the gallery. And his collection of old masters was even more overpowered by the architecture.
The gallery forced Kenneth Frampton, in his review, to “question how neutral or specific an art gallery should be and whether it should in itself constitute an object of aesthetic intensity.” Given the pluralist forms and demands of contemporary art (as opposed to, say, candles), he answered the latter question in the negative.
– ROBERT WIESENBERGER