A Safe House for Orphan Parts an Architectural Proposal for a US Center for Illicit Antiquities
Historic Preservation and Conservation
Though very different institutions, the Met, the Getty, and US Immigration and Customs have a striking similarity in one regard. Each holds unmatched collections of antiquities. They focus efforts on study, acquisition, and object transfer. However, the Met and the Getty are renowned museums and ICE recovers and repatriates black market goods, keeping their collection in several top-secret warehouses. One such warehouse in Queens houses over 2,500 seized artifacts including “a huge stone Buddha from India, terra-cotta horsemen from China, reliefs from Iraq, Syria, and Yemen” Unlike the carefully curated collections at institutions like the Met, these pieces are a wildly varying group of rescues. These looted “parts” become displaced from their site or museum context and either disappear into private collections or spend years in government facilities awaiting repatriation. In parallel globally and in the United States, the means and methods of war have greatly evolved leaving a vast aging building stock of military orphans. Traditional building typologies including munitions storage, forts, and bunkers have been superseded but are expensive or difficult to demolish. In addition, these spaces are crafted around defensive, introverted narratives. A Safe House for Orphan Parts posits the role of architecture in repatriation and speculates on the proposed relationship between the orphan part and the orphaned building. The project seeks to explore the architectural opportunities to tell the story of looting in relation to terrorism.