Cellar Door

Emily Webster

Using the cellars that line New York’s sidewalks as a canvas, ‘Cellar Door’ activates and reclaims these often avoided spaces, framing their contents and transforming them into a space of intrigue.


New York’s sidewalks are lined with cellars leading down to the basements of buildings
and bowels of businesses. At street-level, we’re offered small glimpses into the cellars; legs cut off at the knee, dank puddles pooled on the floor, boxes overflowing with products, provisions and equipment...each unique view adds to the mystery of these spaces. Often, the hatches are ignored or avoided and, even when shut, affect foot traffic and movement patterns.

‘Cellar Door’ reclaims these hatches. A handful of cellars throughout Manhattan will be framed by a translucent, glowing surface. These surfaces will grow brighter when a person is present, illuminating the cellar space below.

By creating a dialogue between the city’s architecture, infrastructure and the movement of its residents, ‘Cellar Door’ taps into the subconscious effect the doors have on pedestrian movement. Enticing passersby to stop and peer in, the piece will frame the volume created by these spaces, transforming them into site-specific vignettes.