Pittsburgh Art Places


1404 Swissvale Avenue Swissvale PA 15218

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Briggs, Gold, Savage, House, Swissvale

Artwork Type

House of Gold, 2013

Dee Briggs


Commissioning Entity Dee Briggs
Owner Dee Briggs

The House of Gold is a metaphor to remind its viewers to see the value and beauty in people and places before they are gone. The House of Gold is a project created by local Pittsburgh sculptor Dee Briggs. In 2013, Briggs acquired the house through the city of Pittsburgh real-estate division with the intention of demolishing it. However, upon seeing the house surrounded by vacant, decaying houses, Briggs’s thoughts began to shift. With the notion of “value” in mind, Briggs began to research the history of the old house. Through her research, the history began to give a voice and an identity to the house. Briggs channels this voice in her website, house-of-gold.com, as the house tells its own story in first-person to its readers.  Before demolition, Briggs along with many devoted helpers, worked to paint the entire house a shiny metallic gold from top to bottom. This project is about people and a grassroots effort to rebuild an otherwise devastated neighborhood. On the House of Gold website, Briggs writes, “I painted the house gold, prior to demolition, hoping that it might encourage everyone to see the value in people and places - before they are gone.”

After the process of painting the house gold, Briggs and her helpers also initiated a “gentle demolition.” Hoping to salvage as much of the house as possible, Briggs and her team began to process, trim, de-nail, organize and store all of the material from the house instead of smashing it instantly to the ground. It took seven weeks to complete the gentle demolition. Many of the salvaged materials from the house were displayed at Briggs’s exhibition at the Mine Factory in November of 2014. Parts of the house were displayed as art objects, such as a window-sash weight elegantly framed as a ready-made sculpture, and a doorframe from the living room, which is stuck on the wall using the nails that held it in place in the house. Additionally, Briggs sculpted a miniature sculpture, a 1⁄16-scale replica of the house, made of a stainless-steel bronze composite and plated in 24K gold, to show visitors what the House of Gold looked like.

The House of Gold stood as a project that was about community, neighborhood, and value. Briggs writes, “This project has been a tremendous challenge and hugely rewarding. It created new friendships and professional relationships across the lines of generation, race, economics and gender. It created work for people who need to work and people who love to work. It gave an old house with a fantastic history a grand farewell and saved over 85% of the building material from the landfill. It helped people remember what the neighborhood was and imagine what it could be in the future.”

By Kirk Savage, Ph.D. 

Kirk Savage is a professor of art history at the University of Pittsburgh. He has written extensively on public monuments in the United States, and is the author of two prizewinning books: Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape and Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America.

Dee Briggs is a sculptor who currently splits her time between Pittsburgh and New York. She studied architecture at the City College of New York and earned a Master of Architecture degree from Yale University in 2002. Briggs is interested in the value and beauty of place. Briggs works to enhance the value of buildings, houses, and neighborhoods both monetarily and culturally.