Architect Selldorf Makes Magic With Concrete Gallery

Tap for Slideshow
Photographer: Jason Schmidt/Judd Foundation/VAGA/Richard Serra/Artists Rights Society/Fred Sandback Archive/Selldorf Architects via Bloomberg

The second floor exhibition space at David Zwirner Gallery. Architectural concrete is used in the construction of the building.

Close
Photographer: Jason Schmidt/Judd Foundation/VAGA/Richard Serra/Artists Rights Society/Fred Sandback Archive/Selldorf Architects via Bloomberg

The second floor exhibition space at David Zwirner Gallery. Architectural concrete is used in the construction of the building. Close

The second floor exhibition space at David Zwirner Gallery. Architectural concrete is used in the construction of the building.

Photographer: Jason Schmidt/Selldorf Architects via Bloomberg

The facade of the David Zwirner Gallery during the day. Annabelle Selldorf designed David Zwirner's first gallery in SoHo. Close

The facade of the David Zwirner Gallery during the day. Annabelle Selldorf designed David Zwirner's first gallery in SoHo.

Photographer: Dean Kaufman/Selldorf Architects via Bloomberg

Annabelle Selldorf. David Zwirner Gallery is one of many projects taken on by Selldorf Architects. Close

Annabelle Selldorf. David Zwirner Gallery is one of many projects taken on by Selldorf Architects.

Photographer: Jason Schmidt/Selldorf Architects via Bloomberg

The facade of the David Zwirner Gallery at night. Artwork can be seen from outside through large window walls. Close

The facade of the David Zwirner Gallery at night. Artwork can be seen from outside through large window walls.

Photographer: Jason Schmidt/Selldorf Architects via Bloomberg

A section of the staircase as seen from the second floor of the David Zwirner Gallery. Both Zwirner and Annabelle Selldorf grew up in Cologne, surrounded by concrete. Close

A section of the staircase as seen from the second floor of the David Zwirner Gallery. Both Zwirner and Annabelle... Read More

Photographer: Jason Schmidt/Selldorf Architects via Bloomberg

A view down the staircase at the David Zwirner Gallery. The steps are illuminated by a skylight. Close

A view down the staircase at the David Zwirner Gallery. The steps are illuminated by a skylight.

Photographer: Jason Schmidt/Judd Foundation/VAGA/Selldorf Architects via Bloomberg

The main exhibition space as seen from the ground floor at the David Zwirner Gallery. The gallery shows works by Flavin, Judd, Ad Reinhardt and Matta-Clark. Close

The main exhibition space as seen from the ground floor at the David Zwirner Gallery. The gallery shows works by... Read More

Photographer: Jason Schmidt/Selldorf Architects via Bloomberg

The facade of the David Zwirner Gallery during the day. The sustainable building qualifies on the LEED gold scale. Close

The facade of the David Zwirner Gallery during the day. The sustainable building qualifies on the LEED gold scale.

Photographer: Jonathan Chesley/Selldorf Architects via Bloomberg

The Sunset Park Materials Recycling Facility, near the entrance to Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal. Plastic, glass and metal will be processed there. Close

The Sunset Park Materials Recycling Facility, near the entrance to Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal. Plastic, glass and metal... Read More

Annabelle Selldorf is in her cheerful prime. Old projects continue to exert charm: that impeccable renovation of New York’s Neue Galerie, for example; or the jaw-dropping Chelsea condo cum car elevator of 200 Eleventh Avenue.

New projects stun in their variety: The transformation of Venice’s Arsenale for the Biennale, a majestic Manhattan gallery for David Zwirner featuring surely the most seductively textured concrete walls, and a recycling station that opens soon in Brooklyn.

In comfortable-looking Prada slippers, Selldorf walked me through the Zwirner gallery’s luminous spaces.

Hoelterhoff: Concrete?

Selldorf: David and I are both from Cologne and grew up with a lot of concrete and thinking, concrete is really ugly!

Hoelterhoff: Yes! So how do you make it beautiful?

Selldorf: Man, it’s a lot of work. It really is. But for us architects, concrete is also a magical material, because it gives you infinite freedom to do all sorts of shapes.

Hoelterhoff: What was here before?

Big Names

Selldorf: A garage that had all sorts of limitations we could never have overcome.

David wanted to display in the best way possible the secondary-market artists that he deals with, especially the estates -- whether that’s Flavin, Judd, now Ad Reinhardt, Matta-Clark -- the great minimalist artists who thrive on daylight, and in big spaces.

Hoelterhoff: The main gallery is thrilling with its skylights. So is the view up the staircase. Was the process difficult?

Selldorf: I was a tiny bit naive about the process, because I thought, it’s like any other material, you sort of look up what you have to do!

But it’s a different kind of industry here than it is in Europe and that has to do with a lot of reasons, including unions.

There’s this one guy, whose business is to work with architects making what’s called architectural concrete.

Hoelterhoff: Meaning?

Open Windows

Selldorf: The mix is a bit different.

There are many things to consider: what the forms are like, how long you cure it, how much you pour in one pour and what the sequencing of it is, because you can only pour one floor at a time. Being that weather conditions can be different, how do you ensure that the first floor and the second floor look the same. That’s actually the hardest part.

Hoelterhoff: The facade features teak. Will it turn gray?

Selldorf: No. It has a sealer on it. If it goes gray a little bit, I don’t think we’ll mind, but we want it to have the quality where we can identify it as wood.

Hoelterhoff: Wow, the windows open. Here’s a breeze.

Selldorf: It’s heaven. We’re European. But while there was all this very careful thinking about windows, doors, how a space is used, how daylight is applied -- it’s also a sustainable building. It qualifies on the LEED gold scale and that’s something we’re proud of.

Hoelterhoff: You and Zwirner have known each other a long time.

Selldorf: I designed David’s first gallery in SoHo when we were both decidedly junior and practically applying the floor stain ourselves. It’s a tremendous privilege to have a client who I can work with throughout my career. We started at the same time and then he became incredibly big.

Hoelterhoff: So did you! Many of us are very excited by the Sunset Park Materials Recycling Facility in Brooklyn. The most beautiful destination for plastic, glass and metal.

Selldorf: Ha. Let’s visit in September.

(Manuela Hoelterhoff is executive editor of Muse, Bloomberg’s arts and culture section. Any opinions are her own. This interview was adapted from a longer conversation.)

Muse highlights include Susan Antilla on books, Greg Evans on TV.

To contact the writer responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Billy in New York at dbilly@bloomberg.net.

Bloomberg reserves the right to edit or remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.