In March 2013, the Pulitzer Arts Foundation and the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis launched PXSTL, based on the belief that creative interventions have the power to serve as meaningful catalysts for urban transformation.
PXSTL, an acronym that stands for the Pulitzer, Sam Fox School, and St. Louis, begins with a national competition to design and build a temporary, site-specific structure that functions as a venue for community-based and site-specific programming, while activating a vacant lot in the Grand Center neighborhood of St. Louis. Throughout the course of the project, the Pulitzer and the Sam Fox School will work to expand community engagement through the design of both the structure and the programs that it will house.
2015-17 PXSTL: A Way, Away (Listen While I Say)
As their first joint commission, Chicago-based artists Amanda Williams and Andres L. Hernandez will create a temporary space for community programs and events on the vacant lot across from the Pulitzer for the second iteration of PXSTL. A Way, Away (Listen While I Say) will activate both the land and the building adjacent to it, which has been slated for demolition. In so doing, Williams and Hernandez will address the idea of building and "unbuilding" as both topic and methodology.
The artists have designed the project to unfold in five stages—Marking, Subtracting, Translating, Shaping, and Healing—that parallel the cyclical phases of demolition and construction. Their process embraces the uncertain and precarious, and each stage will be informed by contemporary issues in urban planning and policy, architecture, art, landscape, construction, and related fields.
Beginning by engaging the structurally unsound 95-year-old building adjacent to the land parcel (located at 3721 Washington Boulevard), Williams and Hernandez will use color to mark and honor the building before its imminent demolition. Then, together with local contractors, students, artists, designers, and stakeholders in the Grand Center Arts District, the artists will reshape the topographical contours of the landscape, using bricks from the building and ground cover. This will be choreographed through a communal disassembling of the constructed landscape and regeneration of green space as a gesture toward healing. During each phase, the site will be open to the public as a location for arts programming and participatory projects.
In conjunction with the development of their design, Williams and Hernandez co-taught a studio for students in the Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design with lecturer Jonathan Stitelman in fall 2016. Using demolition as a point of departure, students gathered broken bricks—a material rich with local and architectural significance—from the site of a previous Pulitzer project, raumlaborberlin: 4562 Enright Avenue. Students then actively investigated, researched, and experimented with ideas of building and unbuilding by repurposing these reclaimed bricks. Through studio-based projects, a field trip to Chicago, and a charrette with local community members, students engaged with social and spatial practices, integrating innovative design applications and community-oriented research. View photos from the fall 2016 PXSTL studio>>
For the 2015-17 PXSTL competition, the Pulitzer and Sam Fox School solicited nominations from deans of architecture, art, and design programs; editors of art, architecture, and design publications; distinguished practitioners; and directors and curators of arts institutions. Three finalists were chosen from a group of more than 35 international practitioners. The selection committee, which comprised representatives from the Pulitzer and the Sam Fox School, chose Williams and Hernandez based on criteria that included the strength and creativity of their past work, innovation of approach, and the potential to invite public engagement.
Williams and Hernandez will discuss the project March 8 as part of the Sam Fox School Public Lecture Series. The lecture will begin at 6:30p in Steinberg Auditorium.
PXSTL is among several projects funded by an endowment created by Emily Rauh Pulitzer to support collaboration between the Pulitzer and the Sam Fox School.