- 1998 plaza renovation -
Marine Midland Building (1965-1968, SOM) New York
The Marine Midland Building plaza is known for its brilliant open space and the cube by sculptor Nogucci. The signal orange-red cube has been an attraction and a strong New York landmark for decades. Not only is the cube of significance in terms of the development and the relationship of art and architecture, but the plaza has for long offered a spatial relief from the condensed downtown Manhattan skyline. People run through the plaza on their way to and from their business via random paths, using the space as a shortcut. It is an important place to get a brief relief from the overcrowding of people on the sidewalks which so characterizes the entire financial area
Recently, the plaza has undergone a renovation of sorts, where new paving and planters have been added to "beautify" this modern landmark. The result is a loss of the clean slate-spatiality, with a clumsy arrangement of planters. Much of the south side of the building has been filled up with heavy, cheapo concrete planters. This does not result in a better environment, but serves more to overcrowd the plaza with obstacles better suited as Hudson river landfill.
Concrete planters also line an implied sidewalk along Broadway, the front of the plaza. Maybe they got these on a discount, because they are out of scale, do not match the color scheme nor the materiality of the original design. Why one needs to mark an imagined sidewalk is pretty ridiculous, it defeats the original intent and is a sign of a typical corporate board-room decision.
With no arrangement for potential occupants of the plaza, the renovation idea completely misses the target and anyhow, if one would want to stay in an outside space, there is plenty of seating and trees in Liberty Park across the street, where trees form a canopy to diffuse the summer sunlight. The intent of the Marine Midland plaza was to give spatiality to a dense city and it is clear the present owners do not realize how important this is in the context of the history of urbanity in New York City.
The soft - white travertine of the entire plaza was replaced with pink to beige stone, which neither matches the original intent, nor the color of the building. It seems that selecting a pink stone is another cutsie way to try and "pretty-fy" the architectural effect while forgetting that the bright orange sculpture is compromised with beige/pink as a flooring background. "Beware of the taste of American architects" [L.C.]
One of the strengths of the cube sculpture is how it hovered above the surface of the plaza. With a gap beneath, it was originally made to appear to be separated from the plaza surface. This helped give it the hovering quality which added to its enormous size. It seems that the architects responsible for this renovation don't understand the difference between quality materials and duct tape, as they refigured the detail at the bottom with a glob of silicone that entirely violates the sculpture.
Here is one heel imprint on the soar butt of those responsible for this lame affair. Clean the crap off the plaza !
The views expressed are solely those of the february author of
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Vefriti translates from Icelandic as web-writer