Broken Angel

(Photo Douglas LeMoine)

Broken Angel, the Brooklyn house made famous by Dave Chapelle’s Block Party, may have been saved by an adaptive reuse deal according to the New York Times.

(Photo Douglas LeMoine)

The spectacular example of outsider architecture has been suffering a near death experience following a fire in early October 2006. According to the owner’s son, Christopher Wood,

The building Broken Angel is a unique melding of art and architecture designed by my father Arthur Wood, and located in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn. The original building was bought at a city auction in 1979, and major construction was completed in 2002. On 10/10/06 a structure at the top of Broken Angel caught fire. Thanks to the quick action of the New York City fire department no one was harmed, and only minimal damage was done to the building. Unfortunately the fire brought the attention of the department of buildings (DOB) who vacated my parents, the owners and guardians of Broken Angel. My family is currently working with the architecture firm, Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture, to bring the building to code, however we are still being threatened with demolition by the DOB.

It is unclear how much of the Wood’s constructions will survive. They have agreed to submit engineering plans to dismantle the building’s 40-foot rooftop structure, the main violation of building codes. The Woods have also entered into a tentative agreement to share ownership with a local developer, Shahn Andersen, who would turn most of the building into condominiums including some form of community space, along with living and studio space for the Woods. Mr Wood says he was forced into the deal because he was running out of time and afraid the buildings department would tear down his home.

(Photo Douglas LeMoine)

Although it’s debatable whether Mr Wood is an outsider artist in the usual sense of the word there is no doubt that his building is intended to be a complete environment and any demolition will depreciate its eccentric charm. (There is an excellent article by Samantha Krukowski about the complete environments created by outsider artists and their difficult relationship with art markets) Despite a few prominent examples like Watts Towers, outsider architecture usually ends up being demolished, unlike the bleaker monstrosities produced by developers.

There are numerous interior and exterior photos of Broken Angel at Christopher Wood’s flckr site .