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Introduction

Since 2015, photographer and East Village resident Adam Friedberg has documented all the single-story buildings in the East Village and the Lower East Side, nearly 100 sites in total. As rapid development swept through these two neighborhoods, Friedberg realized that these modest structures were quickly disappearing, along with the predominately working-class uses that filled them. Many of the structures themselves are modest and architecturally insignificant, yet together they form an alternative geography of the built environment that is quickly being erased before our eyes.

Friedberg’s photographs are blunt and frontal, befitting the everyday nature of their subjects. But their matter-of-fact documentary style belies a rigorous working method and dogged commitment to the series: in order capture photographs without cars or people, he primarily shot the buildings just after dawn, often having to return time and again to shoot and reshoot. The quiet, uncluttered streetscapes help the viewer to see these background buildings in the foreground.

For this show, the structures are loosely clustered by similar uses, revealing both commonalities and differences. Religious services can take place in ornate settings or humble storefronts. Real estate interests can devour both fast food joints and high-end cocktail bars. While Friedberg’s stance on the preservation of these structures is agonistic, Single-Story Project prompts us to pause and consider the value of these places before they are all gone.

Photographer: Adam Friedberg

Curator: Alan G. Brake

Exhibition Designer: Vanessa Lam

Record keeping for vernacular architecture of the sort featured in this exhibition is sparse and inconsistent. Where known, we have indicated the original architect or architect(s) of notable renovations. If you have information regarding the architect for any of the buildings featured in this exhibition, please reach out to exhibitions@centerforarchitecture.org.

The original Single-Story Project exhibition on view at the Center for Architecture November 21, 2019 to February 29, 2020 included 52 photographs of the nearly 100 Friedberg has taken as part of this project. 12 are included in this online version.

Single Story Project is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

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