Dream House, 1993–present
275 Church Street, Third Floor

This site is included in LMCC’s Creative Insider’s Guide to Lower Manhattan, sponsored by Launch LM.

Dream House is a sound and light environment created from the collaboration between artists La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela. Located on the third floor of an unassuming Tribeca loft building, the space of Dream House is soaked in magenta light, shadowed with mystifying sculptures, and filled with an absorbing and incessant drone sound emitting from the installation.

Artist Marian Zazeela contributed the four works that comprise the visual presentation, including a lit neon, Dream House Variation I, minimalist light sculpture, Ruine Window 1992 and two environmental light works, Imagic Light, and a tinted window display, Magenta Day / Magenta Night. Composer La Monte Young provided the sound work he created with an interval synthesizer that channels sine waves tuned to pre-composed whole number frequency ratios to produce in real time a periodic composite sound waveform environment.  Instrumental in making Dream House a reality was Heiner Friedrich, longtime art dealer and collector as well as the co-founder of the Dia Art Foundation who produced other permanent installations in Lower Manhattan including Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room (1977) at 141 Wooster Street and The Broken Kilometer (1979) at 393 Broadway. Dream House is now run under the auspices of the non-profit La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela themselves founded, New York’s MELA Foundation.

Dream House is an extension of pioneering compositional sound and light experiments by Young and Zazeela dating back to the mid-1960s. In 1964, Young envisioned “Dream Houses [that] will allow music which, after a year, ten years, a hundred years of constant sound, would not only be a real living organism with a life and tradition of its own, but one with a capacity to propel itself by its own momentum.”* One of the first Dream Houses was presented from 1979–1985 at 6 Harrison Street, and the current iteration of Dream House has been continuously on view at 275 Church Street since 1993, making it the longest running of Young and Zazeela’s environments. The work is described as a “time installation measured by a setting of continuous frequencies of sound and light.”** Yet though the intonations are constant, when one moves through the space, or even tilts their head slightly, vastly differing sounds vibrate, throb, and hum through ones’ eardrums. As a result, it can be said that one literally “plays the room” as they move through the space. Young’s soundscape thus scales from a meditative and sustained tone to an overwhelming and varied pulsation depending on how one stirs within the environment.

The light experiments of Marian Zazeela are in dialogue with those by contemporaneous artists such as Robert Irwin, James Turrell, and Doug Wheeler that have recently been on display again in New York City and around the world, while the sonic sensibility of La Monte Young –alongside artists like John Cage and Terry Riley– stands as a precursor to the minimal electronic music that has become today in art museums and dance clubs alike. Providing an amethyst atmospheric ambience and described as “a veritable wormhole in the urban fabric,”*** Dream House is a hidden gem of an immersive artwork in Lower Manhattan.

– Alex Fialho


*La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, “Dream House” in Selected Writings (Munich: Heiner Friedrich, 1969).
**Mela Foundation press release. http://www.melafoundation.org/DHpressFY14.html (Accessed May 26, 2014).
***Tim Griffin, “Biennale of Art Contemporain de Lyon,” Artforum, February 2006.


Photo Credit (in order of appearance):

Dream House: Sound and Light Environment, 1993-present
Photo Credit:  Marian Zazeela
MELA Foundation, 275 Church Street, 3rd Floor, New York City.
© Marian Zazeela 1993

The Just Alap Raga Ensemble performing Raga Darbari, Dream House, Berlin 2012.
L to R: Jung Hee Choi, La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela, voices; Naren Budhkar, tabla.
Photo Credit: Jung Hee Choi.
© Jung Hee Choi 2012