Digging (Archaeology of the Vacant Lot)

A monument to history

artist Hans Haacke

Part of Monument Lab

Digging. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Digging. Photo by Steve Weinik.

About the Project 

As a monument to the layers of history, artist Hans Haacke proposes an archaeological dig to reveal multiple hidden foundations under a single vacant lot. Haacke, who studied at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in 1961–62 on a Fulbright Fellowship, returned last year to Philadelphia and encountered numerous empty spaces where buildings once stood.

Haacke, who works with monumental sculptures and installations, sought a monument that already exists beneath the surface. He requested a site for an archaeological dig in which buried building foundations, intact underground, could be brought upward for public viewing. In cooperation with the People’s Emergency Center and property owners Alvin and Sheila Bunch, the triangular lot on 42nd Street and Lancaster Avenue is now a site for excavation and interpretation. This single vacant lot once held seven properties, until an automobile crashed into one of the buildings in the late 1990s, causing the owner to demolish the remaining structures. Haacke’s monument imagines the former buildings under vacant lots as not just buried and gone, but as the basis for a living blueprint to link the past and present of the city.


Major support for Monument Lab projects staged in Philadelphia’s five squares provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. An expanded artist roster and projects at additional neighborhood sites made possible by the William Penn Foundation. Lead corporate support provided by Bank of America. Generous additional support provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

For a full list of funders click here.