Saturday, October 10, 2009

Civic Center, Foley Square Bounded by Centre, Lafayette and Worth Streets

Mary Sargent © 2009 ………………….. click to enlarge

Now it is time to consider the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building. Here is a truly ugly building, although it's hard to tell just how ugly it is at this reduced size. Its surface is the problem.

Mary Sargent © 2009 ………………….. click to enlarge

See? The architects (Alfred Easton Poor, Kahn & Jacobs, Eggers & Higgins) were probably just as horrified as the rest of us when they saw what their design looked like full size, but by then it was too late. This was built in 1967 which explains a lot.

Some of you will remember the saga of Richard Serra's Tilted Arc, installed on the plaza in 1981 and removed 8 years later. It was quite controversial, with art lovers on one side and the rest of the world on the other. The rest of the world won and it was removed in 1989.

I regret that I never went down to see it while it was there. It seemed so far away in those days. And I had a job.

Tilted Arc was the opposite of Triumph of the Human Spirit. Triumph is bad art but good public art and Tilted Arc was good art and bad public art.  I wonder if it's possible to make good art and good public art.

Wired New York has everything you'd ever want to know about Serra and Tilted Arc and the Plaza and what it looked like then and what it looks like now, with photos, so that's the only link I'm going to give you.


B.Lewin said...

Tilted Arc was sensational up close. Monumental and intimate at the same time. I don't know how Serra accomplished that, but the damned thing made me sigh. I loved it. Imagine, in the dead of night they cut it up into three pieces and hauled it off. Cowards.

mas said...

Hi Mary. My name is Martha St.George and my father Leslie M. St.George, P.E. was the Engineer who was the architechts representative for Eggers, Higgins&Poor who designed the Jacob Javits Federal Building.(I believe on the glass cube addition part, but perhaps both. I just wanted you to know that although the buildings may be "Ugly" as you say part of my childhood was enriched by the stories my very smart and competent father(MIT Graduate who also walked the steel of the Chrysler Building and worked on other NYC landmarks)brought home about working in Chinatown and his great enjoyment of his time working there. Always remember that all buildings are there because of the hard work of many competent people, and to serve the public good. They are all part of our life fabric, past and present. Thanks for your memorable photos. M