Broken Angel has towered above the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn for years. Built by artist Arthur Wood and his wife Cynthia, the house-cum-studio-cum-sculpture is the sort of neighborhood landmark you see less and less of on the streets of New York City these days, with its mirrors, extra stories, gazebos, stained-glass windows, decks and spires bursting out of the old Brooklyn Trolley headquarters.
The building was featured in French filmmaker Michel Gondry’s 2006 documentary film Dave Chapelle’s Block Party, which chronicled a rainy afternoon concert hosted by comedian Chapelle on the Brooklyn street corner in front of Broken Angel. The Woods allowed the visibly amused Chapelle and Gondry to film them throughout their house, which the artists have slowly been building since 1979.
Last October, a fire broke out at the house. No one was hurt, but the blaze brought unwanted attention from the city’s Buildings Department, which said Broken Angel violated the fire code. (Truth be told, that conclusion could probably have been made from the street for decades.)
Wood frantically worked to save the building, reaching out to Gondry and Chapelle with little success. Predictably, the building is now going to be converted into condominiums, though the Woods rejected an offer of $1.8 million (€1.4 million) to raze the building.
Rather, the Woods are working with a local developer to build condos while keeping much of the original sculpture intact—and bringing it up to code. The lot next door will feature a community center with artist studios and the complex will include living space for the Woods.
In a city that seeks to replace pretty much everything with more multi-family residential apartments, the project comes off as a rather sane compromise.
“It will be taller, more majestic,” Wood told the New York Daily News. “We may even light it up at night and it will be nicer.”