welcome to kunzhaus

After approximately nine months of physical work on the space at 1718 Rialto Street, Kunzhaus saw its opening on Friday, March 11, 2016. Artist Robert Kusmirowski celebrated the completion of his extraordinary piece with a lively reception and the first guided tours of the house.

Despite having photographed the house throughout its creation (or perhaps in part because of it), the final walk through left me absolutely astonished. Experiencing the art as a whole, in addition to appreciating each room individually, solidified my understanding of the work and allowed me to value it to an ever higher degree.

The following photographs, taken on Sunday, March 13, will progress through the four-story house as the tour does. Check back for more photographs of the transformation and information on how to visit Kunzhaus.     – Jessica

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All images © Jessica Toro and Tyler Banash

 

 

 

 

 

 

instax im Haus

It was refreshing to visit Kunzhaus again after being away for over two months. Since much of the house had already been documented, we decided to have some fun with an instant camera and experiment with lighting. The following photographs were taken on Wednesday, December 30, 2015 by Jessica Toro and Tyler Banash.

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10 September

The changes that took place at Kunzhaus between September 3rd and September 10th were phenomenal. With more completed rooms, a total transformation of the backyard, and the addition of many details throughout the house, the shoot on the 10th of September was amazing. This was the last session before Robert and Paulina returned to Poland for a brief respite. Not much work remains for the completion of Kunzhaus.

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All images © Jessica Toro, Tyler Banash

A Quick Shoot

On August 27th one of Kunzhaus‘s upstairs rooms was filled with nothing but tools and building materials. By September 3rd, it had become the “burn room.” With only a few details remaining for completion, the dramatic change was absolutely astounding. In addition, the “mirrored rooms” were just shy of finalization and looked incredible. With efforts concentrated on the upstairs rooms, only small changes were seen throughout the rest of the house. The shoot on September 3rd was brief yet especially exciting and rewarding.

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All images © Jessica Toro

Troy Hill Photo Walk

From creating a miniature darkroom in the basement, to decorating the walls, to current documentation and photo shoots, photography is proving to play an integral role in the making of Kunzhaus. The following photos were taken on August 30, 2015 when location scouting in Troy Hill for an image that Robert plans to incorporate into the house. The images from this shoot may not end up appearing in Kunzhaus, however exploring the neighborhood and documenting the experience was worthwhile in itself.

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All images © Jessica Toro

1718 Rialto

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1718 Rialto Street. July 27, 2015.

In 1880, the approximate year Kunzhaus was built, Troy Hill’s “1718 Rialto Street” did not exist. Constructed just after the village of “New Troy” was annexed by Allegheny City in 1877, the house lived at 21 Ravine Street. The street name and house number were changed after Pittsburgh annexed Allegheny City in 1907.

John and Elizabeth Allig, and their daughter Willis, were the first occupants of the house. Listed in various sources as a milkman and laborer, John was from Bavaria. It appears that Elizabeth was from Central Europe, possibly Sudetenland. The Alligs rented rooms, many to fellow immigrants. It is for one such family that Kunzhaus is named.

This 1890 map lists the Allig family at 21 Ravine Street.

This 1890 map lists the Allig family at 21 Ravine Street.

Fredolin Kunz immigrated to Pittsburgh from Switzerland sometime in the 1880s. Various sources list his occupation as a milkman, a teamster, a laborer, a compounder, and a watchman at a cork factory. Fredolin married Katharina, a local woman of German descent, and the couple bought the house in April 1896 for $2,500. Fredolin and Katharina had six children — Frederick, George, Leo, Elizabeth, Kosmas, and Stella — who all took jobs at an early age to help support the family.

The Kunz family listed in the 1910 census.

The Kunz family listed in the 1910 census.

Katharina Kunz died the day after Christmas in 1947. In 1948 Fredolin Kunz sold the house to John J. Boss Sr. and Clara B. (Weidner) Boss and the house stayed in the Boss family for three generations until it was sold to William and Clara Baker in 1980. Eileen Wehner bought the house in 1983.

It is from Eileen Wehner that Evan Mirapaul, a Troy Hill resident and art collector, purchased the house at 1718 Rialto Street. Kunzhaus will be the second permanent art work on Rialto Street commissioned by Mirapaul. When unveiled this autumn, the house will be a short walk from La Hütte Royal by German artist Thorsten Brinkmann, a piece that has intrigued, entertained, pleased, confused, and (on rare occasion) even angered its visitors. Kunzhaus is sure to be a celebrated addition to Rialto Street and the neighborhood.

Rialto Street

Rialto Street. April 21, 1914. From the Historic Pittsburgh Image Collection. Reproduced with permission.

Many thanks to writer Eric Lidji for permission to use his research on the house. His piece on La Hütte Royal can be found here.