One might think that an abandoned 1920s bank on Chicago’s South Side, decaying from top to bottom—the roof collapsed, revealing the interior to snow and rain for years—would be predetermined for a wrecking ball. Like so many other crumbling structures in the area, that was certainly the fate of the Stony Island Savings & Loan building before the artist, urban planner, and Chicago resident Theaster Gates happened.
Supplied with only a vision to carry him through, Gates got the 20,000-square-foot bank for $1.00 from the city of Chicago and set around an incredible reconstruction. This month, amidst all the confusion of Chicago’s Architecture Biennale, the doors were thrown open, and the public was given the occasion to walk through the new Stony Island Arts Bank. While construction is complete, several details of the bank’s history including peeling paint and broken ceiling tiles have been preserved to merge the past and present physically.