The buildings of the Chinati Foundation are primarily those of Fort D. A. Russell. The important building not at Fort Russell is made of three buildings together, half a city-block, which were an office and warehouses for the sale of wool and mohair. This is in the center of Marfa, across from the Post Office. It contains the work of John Chamberlain. As usual with the buildings of the Foundation, the three were in bad shape and in this case were not well-built. The restoration alone took a long time.
The buildings vary in width, height, and construction, but are on the same level, the platform necessary to load bales onto railroad cars. I moved the various openings some to make an axis from one end of the three to the other. I replaced the broken sliding doors for loading with quartered windows, one quarter of which rotates. The metal parts were painted grey. The walls, which are plastered adobe or tile, were painted a tan the color of adobe. A new roof of corrugated aluminum with skylights of corrugated plastic was put on the large central building. The west end of the more narrow building was enclosed with an adobe wall the height of the crossbars of the new windows. All buildings should have enclosed spaces outdoors. Half of the space outside of the east end, opposite the Post Office, was covered with gravel for parking, which is much better than asphalt. The same gravel covers the other half which turns right along the building parallel to the railroad tracks. This large right angle was planted in a corresponding grid of sotol plants, an agave of the area, from which a liquor like tequila is made – just in case. As “Iandscape gardening” this is plain and suitable to the area, eventually requiring no water. Most public gardens in the town and most in the Southwest originate in English gardening and appear affected and out of place and require lots of scarce water. The Anglo-Americans insist on big grass yards and lots of trees. Until recently they designed the public gardens. Intelligent consideration of the outdoors has been rare in the United States. Landscape is as serious as any part of architecture. While the architecture of buildings is presently pretty bad, its near future is foretold by the complete academicism of the planning of the outdoors.
Within the east building of the three, on either side of the axis, I designed an office and an apartment. Large spaces are difficult and expensive to heat so that small spaces become necessary in winter. Also almost all spaces, especially if they contain art, should be livable. Both of the small spaces are lit by a skylight closing a shaft. The apartment is in two parts, the further, the bedroom, lit and ventilated by a window, which illuminates the translucent door to the bedroom that’s between two dark doors.