meet Emery Roth
On the two sides of City Hall Park sit a pair of cousins; a sculpture by Sol Lewitt and a building by Emery Roth & Sons. They have so much in common they really should meet.
I love them both for entirely different reasons. Sol Lewitt is having a belated show of sculpture in the newly refreshed City Hall Park. In fact, just 4 years after his death he is more popular than ever. Mass Moca has the most remarkable show of American art in recent history. 4 floors of drawings that Lewitt curated with variety, power and exuberance beyond belief. It makes the otherwise quite nice show at Dia Beacon look like a sadly underwhelming gesture. But hurry, the Mass Moca show only runs for 25 years.
And finally there is the fantastic show of sculpture in City Hall Park through December. Planted throughout the park are geometric frames (three x four x three, e.g.), stacked concrete blocks (Tower, Pyramid), faceted icebergs (Complex Form 6, e.g.) and one riotously colored mountain scape at the parks southern point (Splotch 15).
Lewitt's 1990 "Tower (Columbus)" is a stack of white concrete blocks that adds one layer and reduces the width one block to each section as it rises to its full height 8+7+6+5+4+3+2+1 or 36 blocks, or about 24 feet. This produces the lovely harmonic of a base 8 blocks wide and one block high, finally capped by a slender tower 8 blocks high and one block wide. This numerical symmetry seems very Lewitt; it is oddly referential, though not really his fault or intention. It happens to mirror the Emery Roth stack on the other side of City Hall Park, but Lewitt never made sculpture or drawings to represent anything but the instructions created to define, or guide, their form. Tower (Columbus) and 250 Broadway is more like parallel play than any intentional engagement.
250 Broadway is one of those thoughtfully detailed and utterly generic examples of 1960's architecture. It's the demonstrated result of the trickle down from such paragons as the Seagrams Building and Lever House, but it manages neither the extraordinary elegance of Seagram, nor the assembled slab and base of Lever House. 250 Broadway is a living zoning diagram mixed with a demonstration of just how opaque and solid a glass building can be. The grey palette and rigorous grid, combined with the setbacks produce a cartoon of a building. A cartoon that Lewitt's Tower (Columbus) could have been the study model for, although his approach produces something more Soviet that 250 Broadway.
City Hall Park has just been renewed with a $34M renovation to try to erase some of the parks dubious past. City Hall Park has been everything from a grazing commons to a prison and execution site, from the site of a Post Office, to a fountain with a 100' diameter shooting a 50' high stream of water. It has had an Almshouse and an African Burial Ground. And now an art park Sol and Emery can each lead their case!