Man buys historic bank for $1, transforms it into architectural marvel

The Chicago building is now a space for community resources

TRD New York /
Oct.October 25, 2015 12:48 PM

The Stony Island Art Bank made its debut at Chicago’s first-ever Architecture Biennial and the story behind the renovated historic structure is pretty amazing. For starters, artist Theaster Gates purchased the 1920s bank building from the city of Chicago for $1.

Naturally, there was a catch: the building needed about $3.7 million of work. Gates’ solution was to take the building apart piece by piece, according to CityLab. Gates sold slabs of marble taken from the building marked with his signature and the motto, “In ART We Trust,” as works of art, thereby raising the cash for the renovation.

The building is now an archive for community resources, including the books and magazines of John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet, and the record collection of Chicago’s Frankie Knuckles, the late Godfather of House Music.

And beyond the access to local culture that the institution now provides, it has some pretty impressive architecture. Check out the photos below:


[CityLab]Christopher Cameron

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