The Arena by Donald Judd

This essay first appeared in Donald Judd, Architektur, Westfalischen Kunstverein Munster, 1989; Text @ Judd Foundation 2007, licensed by VAGA, NY, NY.

As I've said all of Ft. Russell was a wreck, including the building called the Arena. But it's a nice building. It and the two at my place, and one more elsewhere, were airplane hangars in World War I, situated east of town. The airplanes patrolled the border since it was the time of the revolution in Mexico and it wasn't always clear or accepted as to where Mexico stopped and the United States began. It still isn't clear. The hangars were moved in the late thirties to be part of Ft. Russell: the Japanese may have surprised Pearl Harbor but they didn't surprise the United States. The Arena was the gymnasium of the fort and my buildings were warehouses for the quartermaster. The original structure is of iron columns and trusses supporting a galvanized iron roof. Adobe walls fill the spaces between the columns up to the level of the clerestory along both sides, which in the Arena runs discontinuously as windows across both ends. The buildings are a combination of a sixty-six foot truss, pretty good for 1914 in the country, and adobe walls, which are primordial.

The building is called the Arena because when the fort was closed after World War II the gym floor was removed for the scarce wood and sand laid so as to have an indoor area in which to ride horses. When the sand was removed long strips of concrete which had supported the wooden floors became visible, which were fine in themselves. Some concrete was necessary for a floor so a large area was poured toward the kitchen and the bathroom at the south end and a smaller area poured at the north end for working. The two areas comprise half of the total area. The remaining half in between is filled with grovel; the strips remain in both halves. It would have been oppressive to cover the whole floor with concrete. It's a large and beautiful space, due mostly to the ceiling of trusses and the clerestory and to the new floor, with the old lines of concrete. The doors are aligned, are quartered, and rotate. Two are free-standing outside, opposite the axes of the building.

The Arena was heated by a furnace in a small building at the south end, which had a very obdurate foundation. The Army made everything very solidly, very expensively, to last forever, almost ten years. I found out later in the same place that perpetuity is very short. The adamantine foundation would have been difficult to remove and, anyway, as I've said, enclosures are necessary in West Texas - it can be nice and warm in the middle of the day in January if you're out of the wind - so I designed a courtyard including the foundation and surrounding it, with a bath at the center.

The Arena was to have and may have a large colored work of mine in metal or concrete along both long walls.