Organized by the arts collective Flux Factory, The Novel Project was conceived of as a 30-day experiment in creative isolation for three selected writers. Salazar Davis Architects was invited to participate in this project and was paired with the writer and critic Laurie Stone. SDA and two other artist/architect teams designed and built shelters in a Queens industrial gallery space, where the writers would craft novels in the course of their month in residence.
Rather than simply placing the writer on display, spaces for both writer and viewer were configured within the construct of an ideal 12-foot square cubicle. This encouraged the writer to be an active participant in choosing when and how to interact with her audience. The viewer, although at first seemingly in control of this relationship, quickly learned that “occupying” the cubicle required a degree of physical exertion and contortion (crouching, crawling, sliding) that left him exposed to the writer’s gaze.
A tiny house, hugely appreciated
The writer’s hut was framed with wood and sheathed in translucent plastic shingles to reveal its structure and to give outward evidence of its occupant. This method of construction recalled domestic building techniques and resulted in a structure both familiar and unexpected. A carpeted “sundeck” and secret bed-door added to the writer’s enjoyment of her home, which she tearfully called “the best place I have ever lived!” upon returning to her everyday routine.
The Novel Project was somewhat of a cause celebre at the time of its debut. It saw front page coverage in the New York Post, a feature story and editorials in The New York Times, and a write-up in The New Yorker magazine’s “Talk of the Town” feature.