By WILLIAM L. HAMILTON
FLAVIN JUDD, 38, is as old as SoHo is.
Mr. Judd, the son of Donald Judd, the artist, grew up in a five-story, 19th-century cast-iron building at 101 Spring Street with his father; his mother, Julie Finch, a dancer; and his sister, Rainer Judd, when the district, a decaying industrial zone, offered cheap studios and housing for artists discovering it in the 1960's. Donald Judd bought the building in 1968 for under $70,000 and moved his family in when Flavin was 6 months old.
The local grocery was a small store on Prince Street, Dean & DeLuca. Mr. Judd was friendly with Giorgio DeLuca, one of the partners. The only other shopping was in Little Italy, where the Judds bought fresh fish and sausages. Flavin and Rainer Judd played on the street under the ramps that ran from the loading docks to the trucks.
In a bizarre way, Flavin Judd said on Monday, growing up in SoHo, now a historic district with some of the richest real estate and shopping in the city, was like growing up in a small town.
"The smell of cigars," he said, recalling the cigar-making factories in the neighborhood, which was known as SoHo by 1970. "SoHo smelled like a beautiful cigar."
On May 9 the Donald Judd Foundation, established after Judd's death at 66, in 1994, will put 35 sculptures up for sale at Christie's in New York, in an effort to create a $20 million endowment for the support of its properties in New York and Marfa, Tex., where Judd owned 3 ranches and 15 buildings.
Of greatest priority is 101 Spring Street, a ghost ship at the corner of Mercer Street shrouded in black construction netting.
Flavin and Rainer Judd's childhood home and the house where Donald Judd, a sculptor widely admired for his investigations into architecture and design, started to develop his sense of space and installation as issues integral to his art, is being restored and renovated with the intention of opening it to the public. When the work, estimated to cost at least $8 million, is completed in about three years, 101 Spring Street will have accomplished a rare feat: a restoration that honors both the building's history and an artist's legacy, from two points in time 100 years apart.
As a house museum, 101 Spring Street will be a representation of a carefully curated, minimalist residence that with other artists' residences in SoHo pioneered the idea of loft living: now a style and a housing standard. Judd's vision of life at home within its context of art and design, collecting and display, and its religiously strict dictations of space and arrangement, is a template for much recent fashion in interiors, from the work of architects like John Pawson to the visual philosophies of magazines like Martha Stewart Living and Real Simple. The vocabulary of furnishings — the stainless steel sinks, the antique saltware, the modernist furniture, the white bistro china — reads like a primer on contemporary taste.
Because Judd embedded his legacy, while he was alive, in buildings, with the idea that any work he installed, from art to furniture, should remain in place in perpetuity, the artist and his historic home are now joined at the hip.
In an essay from 1993, Judd wrote that "space is made by thought."
The Judd building, designed by Nicholas Whyte in 1870, has history. Problematically, it has several histories, which the foundation's project team of 11, including architects, conservators, engineers, cast-iron specialists and foundation officials like Flavin and Rainer Judd, will have to address, balancing restoration with conservation and renovation.
"Judd was fascinated by modern engineering, and the kind of connection that 19th-century commercial architecture had with his own aesthetic, and his interest with industrially made things," said Jed Perl, an art critic and the author of "New Art City" (Knopf, 2005), a history of postwar artists' relationships to New York. "It's a house that gives a sense of what SoHo was in that first decade — everyone had a feeling for these old spaces." Mr. Perl added of the preservation effort, "You're really trying to preserve a sensibility."
For example, the Spring Street building's 6,000-square-foot facade has 40 window bays with their original glass, like a precursor of a modern glass curtain wall.
"It is an amazing example of cast-iron construction, in that there is a large proportion of glass to wall," said Adam Yarinsky, of Architectural Research Office, a New York architectural firm, who is leading the team creating a design proposal for the project, to be presented to the foundation in five months. "The thinness of the cast-iron structure is its elegance. You can see the effect of the strength of the metal, while keeping the impression of the building light."
But the original glass also lets in ultraviolet light, which is damaging to the art, and there will be a trade-off, one of many under discussion now. The building's majestic staircase, a figurehead of its 19th-century mercantile heritage, which Judd proudly exposed by setting back the original stairwell walls, will be saved from being sealed. Fire safety codes will be satisfied by a fire suppression and smoke removal system created by Arup Fire, a fire safety company, specifically for the Judd building.
And aesthetic questions, such as whether improvements or repairs to be made would have been made if Judd had had the time or money, and whether they should be made at all, are trickier to answer. Is the machine oil leaching through the ceiling on the third floor — a consequence of the building's industrial past — and staining the brown-coat, Judd-designed walls a no? He hated it, but it is a condition of the space as he left it and not to be changed. Or a yes? Judd hated it and would have fixed it, and it should be fixed to restore the space. In the years after his death, bumper stickers and T-shirts began to appear in Marfa, where Judd's exacting, immovable codes of artistic conduct had become exasperating, that read, "WWDJD." What Would Donald Judd Do?
Rainer Judd, in an interview in 2001, told a reporter, "It's not a healthy thing, to inherit someone's life." Ms. Judd, 36, lives in Hudson, N.Y., and is the president of the board of directors of the foundation. On a tour of 101 Spring Street last week, Barbara Hunt McLanahan, the foundation's director, and Michele Felicetta, the program coordinator, sounded at times like biblical scholars, parsing Judd's intentions toward the building with published writings.
"Even though he wrote a lot, at some point someone still has to interpret it and decide to respond to what he wrote," Ms. Felicetta said.
Then, there is the board of directors and the board of trustees and the art world at large.
"You get 10 Judd academics in a room. ..." Ms. McLanahan said with a weak smile.
Ms. Felicetta, and Mr. Yarinsky in a subsequent conversation, expressed concern that people visiting the house as a museum, being aware of Judd's reputation for ordering his realm, would be confused by seeing exit signs and about whether they were the work of the master.
Flavin Judd, who is the vice president of the foundation's board of directors, recalled no constriction, growing up in his father's house, which by 1996, when Judd's assets were transferred from the estate to the foundation, had become a complete and uncompromised installation of Judd's art — from the massive steel prototype of a sculpture from 1969 in his studio (Judd drafted his designs but used fabrication factories to manufacture the work) to the butcher's meat slicer in the kitchen.
The Judds had a housekeeper, "a lovely Jamaican lady by the name of Olive," Flavin Judd said, and she never ran afoul of Judd for moving anything to clean. The children left their toys out, and lived. There were "the best Swedish breakfasts on the second floor — 50 people would come over — ham, cheese, weird flatbreads, salmon," Flavin Judd said. "It was a great place to grow up."
For future tenants at 40 Mercer Street, a luxury condominium developed by André Balazs and designed by Jean Nouvel, a state-of-the-art SoHo address rising a block away like an expensive executive desk set, the Judd museum will make an interesting visit.