Photographs by Gesche Würfel.
60 pp., 40 color illustrations, 8½x9¾".
Basement Sanctuaries explores the ways in which superintendents decorate basements of apartment buildings in Northern Manhattan, New York City by illuminating the process of migrant adaptation to the metropolis from an intimate perspective.
Superintendents are caretakers that usually live in the basements of apartment buildings with ten or more units. They are in charge of the building on behalf of the owner, maintain its public areas and the building's mechanical and technical systems, do repairs in the apartments and deal with the tenants' concerns. Most of the supers in Northern Manhattan are migrants from Latin America or the Caribbean.
During the process of apartment hunting in Northern Manhattan, Würfel discovered these unexpected and innovatively decorated areas. The repeated themes of cultural, national, and religious origins suggest that similar impulses drive the decoration process for different supers. However the photographs also show the diverse ways in which supers have personalised their multifunctional living/working spaces and have created a uniquely intimate space in the basements of New York City.
This is the fourth volume in the Grey Matters series following on from Matthew Murray's Ska, Chiara Tocci's Life After Zog and Lucia Ganieva's Ermitazhniki.