I started by driving around in the bad neighborhoods. Vacant lots, railroad lines, burned-out buildings - the industrial parts of the downtown, which still show the deep scars of a late-century urban flight. I was looking for something that nobody else wanted anymore. Something anonymous, something forgotten.  The building had been abandoned for 7 years. When the owner died in 1992, the family locked the door and moved out of state. Since then, the roof had collapsed from the weight of standing water. It took three months to track down the descendents of the owner, and when their agent showed up to meet me, I had to climb over the walls to get in. Demolition took six months.  I began with what was left: 4 windowless walls, a concrete slab, the roof joists, and the ever-present sky. Across 3 freight train tracks, you approach the front door under a rusted canopy, 16 feet tall. Inside is a private courtyard with a fireplace and table for 18 friends. The paint, rust, and decay - all is preserved. The back wall of the courtyard is all glass. Eight doors make a window inside to the studio.  The studio is one room: 1000sf. Between the studio and the living area are two parallel walls. These walls are staggered and sliced by gaps filled with glass. The parallel walls hold three rooms: a kitchen, a utility room, and a shower room. When you wash dishes, do laundry, or shower, the gaps in the walls frame views to the courtyard and beyond to the sky.  At the very back, the living area is 850sf. It holds a bed, two chairs, and a table. From the bed, through the gaps in the walls, you can keep your eye on the front door. Except for the trains, it is very quiet at Villa de Murph. And with the skylights, the night is often as bright as the day.
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