View Full Version : Louise Nevelson Plaza

November 18th, 2008, 05:04 PM
Volume 21, Number 15 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | August 22 - 28, 2008


Downtown Express photos by Jefferson Siegel

This week preliminary work began on Liberty St. around Louise Nevelson Plaza. Nevelson’s sculptures will be restored and the plaza’s broken equipment will be fixed as part of the project, which also includes repairing the nearby streets.

Work finally begins around Louise Nevelson Plaza

By Sisi Wei
Four years after former Gov. George Pataki stated “The damaged and collapsing plaza, located at the corner of William St. and Maiden Lane, will be transformed into a tree filled open space with an outdoor café,” the Louise Nevelson Plaza is undergoing a major makeover as part of the Liberty St. Reconstruction Project funded by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.
Scheduled reconstruction began on Liberty St. on Mon., Aug. 18 as part of the street project by the city’s Department of Design and Construction and the Department of Transportation. When construction on the plaza itself begins, the entire area will no longer be accessible to pedestrians, said J.R. Martine, a D.D.C. spokesperson.
Currently decorated with a cracked water fountain, eight stone benches, a few trees and its most prominent feature — seven sculptures by Louise Nevelson — the plaza is getting new components.
Though the outdoor café will not become a reality, frequent visitors of the plaza can look forward to the installment of an array of new lighting. New glass and stainless steel benches with nighttime illumination will be replacing the old stone benches for increased appeal and seating, according to the Web site of Smith-Miller + Hawkinson, the architecture company the L.M.D.C. commissioned to redesign the plaza.
All of the current plants and trees will be replaced with and the plaza will have additional "uplighting" at trees and within the planting beds, according to Martine. D.D.C. is considering either monarch birches or common honey locusts for the new trees. New lighting will also surround the main sculpture at the plaza's west end from inside a new raised granite base. The base will also provide more seating along the sculpture's perimeter.
S.M.H. has also planned for an improved open space for evening and weekend use, improved paving materials and a re-designed Federal Reserve Bank security booth. All seven Nevelson sculptures will be restored to their original condition.
The L.M.D.C. gave just over $2 million for the plaza’s reconstruction.
The reconstruction on Liberty St. between Nassau St. and Gold St. will repair all components of the street — including water mains, combined sewer, sanitary sewer, curbs, sidewalks and roadway. Construction will also be taking place on Maiden Lane from William St. to Water St. and Pearl St. from Fulton St. to John St. Scheduled construction hours are from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays.
The plaza and street work is expected to be finished by the fall of 2009.

The proposed site plan:

This projecty looks extremely boring in this rendering:

This building was known as 1 Liberty Street and was located on this site. It was torn down in the early 1960s probably for a project that never materialized,or financing dried up only after they were able to demolish it. At least the site wasn't turned into a parking lot!
That terra-cotta cornice looks like it projected about twelve feet from the face of the building.



November 18th, 2008, 05:54 PM
They should rebuild 1 Liberty Street instead.

November 25th, 2008, 02:44 AM
According to the Necrology in the 1988 edition of the AIA Guide to New York City, this wonderful building was sacrificed to allow widening of the street for more cars. The view in an accompanying photo is dated 1971, which is after the Landmarks Commission was formed. Shame.

November 25th, 2008, 12:14 PM
Great - removed to widen the street!!! I wonder how this site came to be owned by the city.

November 25th, 2008, 02:32 PM
The white "tower" at 1 Liberty Street went up in 1907. At the time it was home to a number of insurance companies and the American Kennel Club.

As of yet no info found regarding the Architect.

After the building came down the triangular block was known as "Legion Memorial Square" until the plaza was re-named (http://books.google.com/books?id=ZcZjFiQsB1kC&pg=PA54&lpg=PA54&dq=%22legion+memorial+square%22&source=web&ots=GWnXRtnYzN&sig=oHyPVVpPQX-KvF21GQBnBpmqpSM&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result)in honor of Nevelson @ 1978.

November 26th, 2008, 03:59 AM
It was originally called the German-American Insurance Building (http://www.emporis.com/en/wm/bu/?id=germanamericaninsurancebuilding-newyorkcity-ny-usa), designed by Hill & Stout.

November 26th, 2008, 09:13 AM
That's great - thanks for that information. This was a great building.


Notes: Printed on border: "Liberty St. ; German-American Bldg., Hill & Stout, arch. ; Maiden Lane ; Royal Bldg." "21 stories, 281 ft. high, rests on largest caissons, 42 feet below cellar. Org. 1872

November 26th, 2008, 10:13 AM
Good detective work, Merry. Thanks!

April 3rd, 2010, 03:19 PM

May 31st, 2010, 01:37 PM
Saturday, at William & Liberty:





Louise + Frank:



June 3rd, 2010, 08:42 PM
On my way to work every day. I may have seen one of you photographing this... I found this thread looking for plans/renderings illustrating what would happen to the smaller sculptures that were removed from the plaza. The plan seems to show them back along the plaza edges. I've been looking for foundations for them, but haven't seen any. I assume replacement, and refinishing of the big mama, happen at the very end.
BTW, the big one always reminded me of Don Quixote (through a cubist lens).
Nice job on following this through.

June 6th, 2010, 12:55 AM
they should throw one of her giant spiders into the plaza mix while they are at it!


June 6th, 2010, 01:06 AM
The spiders are by a different Louise -- not Nevelson but Louise Bourgeois (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louise_Bourgeois), who died this week at age 99.

June 6th, 2010, 08:18 AM

June 6th, 2010, 02:24 PM
ha put a big spider there anyway and shorten the name to louise plaza!

June 6th, 2010, 03:18 PM
Ms. Bourgeois will need her own spider plaza! ;)

June 6th, 2010, 06:18 PM
... shorten the name to louise plaza!

All Louise all the time (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tkAMkjtVFA) ...

June 6th, 2010, 06:41 PM

July 1st, 2010, 08:42 AM
Chugging along.

http://img267.imageshack.us/img267/2152/nevelson01c.th.jpg (http://img267.imageshack.us/i/nevelson01c.jpg/) http://img340.imageshack.us/img340/1830/nevelson02c.th.jpg (http://img340.imageshack.us/i/nevelson02c.jpg/) http://img691.imageshack.us/img691/9201/nevelson03c.th.jpg (http://img691.imageshack.us/i/nevelson03c.jpg/)

July 1st, 2010, 06:02 PM
Do contractors derive financial benefit from extending these projects to near-Eternity?

July 1st, 2010, 08:25 PM
In other cases (I don't know particulars about LN Plaza job) it seems they might think so -- at least in the short term of the never-ending job. On other NYC Park jobs I've heard various tales of those who pocket money, diverge from the contracted plans / specified materials and then try to re-negotiate (when they find the time to come back to the job at hand). You'd think that penalties written into the contract for missed deadlines / failure to perform would make such tactics unlikely.

Some of those same tales end in litigation, which not only wastes a contractors time but results in high legal bills and the need to come up with the funds that have been played with. And then those same contractors still have to finish out the contract and complete the job (why the City doesn't dump them along the way and move to another contractor is a riddle I've not heard answered).

July 1st, 2010, 08:50 PM

July 1st, 2010, 09:40 PM
With the street rebuild around the plaza, I dug around. Should have just reread the thread first post more carefully.

The project isn't primarily about rebuilding the plaza; it's the surrounding streets. The total cost was projected at $17.8 million, with the LMDC kicking in $2 million for the plaza. Liberty/Maiden Lane reconstruction from Water St to Nassau St.

The agency in control is the DCC. Project information here (http://www.nyc.gov/html/ddc/downloads/pdf/brochures/HWMWTCA6C.pdf).

According to the document, the work is right on schedule if they finish this summer. The post #1 article stated that completion would be in the fall of 2009. No way you can complete this sort of work in Lower Manhattan in one year. A similar project on Chambers St is projected to take three years.

The street work seems complete, except for asphalt paving. It makes sense that the plaza would be completed last.

As for financial benefits for contractors, we'll just have to see what the final bill totals. It must be made public; the trick is to find out where.

July 2nd, 2010, 08:28 PM

July 10th, 2010, 12:37 PM

August 8th, 2010, 08:10 PM
http://a.imageshack.us/img836/2410/nevelson04c.th.jpg (http://img836.imageshack.us/i/nevelson04c.jpg/)

August 22nd, 2010, 03:21 PM

August 22nd, 2010, 05:33 PM
Baby Louise and friends are back!

September 6th, 2010, 06:43 AM
Louise Nevelson's Sculptures Return to Renovated Plaza That Bears Her Name

The sculptures of renowned New York artist Louise Nevelson are back in time for revamped plaza's reopening.

By Julie Shapiro

http://s3.amazonaws.com/sfb111/story_xlimage_2010_09_R4752_LOUISE_NEVELSON_SCULPT URES_RETURN09022010.jpg

http://s3.amazonaws.com/sfb111/story_xlimage_2010_09_R1668_LOUISE_NEVELSON_SCULPT URES_RETURN09022010.jpg

slide show (http://dnainfo.com/20100905/downtown/louise-nevelsons-sculptures-return-renovated-plaza-that-bears-her-name/slideshow/popup/34641)

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Louise Nevelson’s towering steel sculptures recently returned to the downtown plaza that bears her name.

The site-specific sculptures, called “Shadows and Flags,” were reinstalled exactly where Nevelson, a famed New York artist, placed them when the triangular plaza opened in 1977. The installation marks the final phase of a massive renovation of the space.

The rest of the Louise Nevelson Plaza, though, will look much different when the $2 million overhaul is complete and it reopens to the public in October.

The design, by Smith-Miller + Hawkins Architects, replaces the crumbling stone benches Nevelson designed with modern ones made of glass. Workers are also enlarging the plaza and adding more trees and lighting to make the small park at Maiden Lane and Liberty Street more welcoming.

“As lower Manhattan transformed into a more residential community, you have to rethink some of your public spaces,” said Philip Plotch, who is overseeing the project for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

“We wanted to make it a more pleasant place to be during the day and a safer and more active place at night,” he said.

Nevelson’s six smaller sculptures, which stand 20 feet tall, were moved off-site in 2008 for restoration work, including sanding and a fresh coat of black paint. Late last month, the gleaming sculptures returned to their original locations in the plaza.

The larger 70-foot sculpture at the west end of the park stayed in place and is now draped in scaffolding so workers can refurbish it.

Nevelson, who was in her late 70s when the park opened, created the sculptures from scraps of Cor-Ten steel from a foundry in Connecticut. She often improvised her artwork, testing the way found materials could fit together, said Maria Nevelson, Louise’s 50-year-old granddaughter.

“The scale and the material is masculine, in a way,” said Maria Nevelson, who started the Louise Nevelson Foundation in Philadelphia. “It’s impressive to see a woman doing that, especially back then.”

The plaza was the first public space in New York named after an artist, in honor of Nevelson’s pioneering creativity, the city said. Nevelson died in 1988, at the age of 88.

Ro Sheffe, chairman of Community Board 1’s Financial District Committee, said he and others are eagerly awaiting the reopening of the plaza. In addition to the improved seating and lighting, he is looking forward to having the sculptures back in view.

“They’re jocular and so unexpected in this neighborhood,” Sheffe said. “It’s a visual delight. You turn the corner and here are these bizarre sculptures [right near] the Wall Street area. They’re wonderful.”


December 24th, 2010, 03:32 PM
Opened about a month ago.

Only concern (4th image) is that the Fed Cops have commandeered the north side of the park for their personal parking. There's got to be something wrong with that, there is a yellow "no parking" line clearly painted on the street on that side. Their clunkers parked right next to the park (and blocking not only the view, but also pedestrian access) add nothing to the park-like feel!

February 15th, 2011, 05:15 AM
Financial District's Heavy Metal Lightens Up

Smith-Miller+Hawkinson Architects use glass and light to enliven a revamped Louise Nevelson Plaza in Lower Manhattan

Branden Klayko

Louise Nevelson's steel sculptures guard over her namesake plaza at dusk.

As the dust cleared following September 11, the poor state of the Financial District’s public spaces revealed itself to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. The LMDC responded by commissioning a strategic plan for 900 acres east of the World Trade Center site from Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects (SMH), who quickly began preparing a Strategic Open Space (SOS) plan that called for rethinking a network of pedestrian spaces. The nearly decade-long process has culminated in a revamped Louise Nevelson Plaza.

By evaluating pedestrian and automobile flows, parking, and privately owned public spaces (POPS), SMH identified the small “bowtie” plaza among five public spaces with the potential to transform the increasingly residential neighborhood. “We really wanted to encourage people to go down there, because the area was dying,” said Laurie Hawkinson, a principal at SMH. “Many public spaces were being illegally closed for fear of crime and terrorism, and new residents were being squeezed out of their own city.”

http://www.archpaper.com/uploads/nevelson_plaza_03.jpg (http://www.archpaper.com/uploads/nevelson_plaza_03.jpg)

http://www.archpaper.com/uploads/nevelson_plaza_02.jpg (http://www.archpaper.com/uploads/nevelson_plaza_02.jpg)

http://www.archpaper.com/uploads/nevelson_plaza_04.jpg (http://www.archpaper.com/uploads/nevelson_plaza_04.jpg)
Top to bottom: An eastward view through Louise Nevelson Plaza, illuminated
glass benches at night, and an aerial view of the renovated plaza.

Renovations at Louise Nevelson Plaza were folded in with a plan to reconstruct Maiden Lane and Liberty Street, overseen by the NYC Department of Design and Construction. Hawkinson remembers that it was initially daunting to design a public space to be built by a road contractor, especially in the days before the transformative thinking of reigning DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Even though a segment of Maiden Lane could not be absorbed into the plaza as initially hoped, the end results maximize a small space with softened landscaping and delicate glass benches.

Site-specific statues by namesake sculptor Louise Nevelson remain the central focus of the space, with the largest piece at 70 feet tall situated above a shallow plinth that doubles as a stage. All seven Cor-ten steel sculptures have been refurbished and reinstalled in the exact positions Nevelson chose when the plaza opened in 1978.

http://www.archpaper.com/uploads/nevelson_plaza_06.jpg (http://www.archpaper.com/uploads/nevelson_plaza_06.jpg)

http://www.archpaper.com/uploads/nevelson_plaza_05.jpg (http://www.archpaper.com/uploads/nevelson_plaza_05.jpg)
Uplighting illuminated a glass bench in front of the Federal Reserve Bank's guardhouse (top)
and a westward view through the plaza (bottom).

Previously crowded with overgrown landscaping and bulky stone benches, the new design promotes dynamic use by residents with an emphasis on opening up the plaza. That spatial lightness is reinforced with an indirect lighting scheme and glass benches, which offer a foil to the heavy sculptures. Lit from beneath and supported by stainless steel trusses, the benches’ 3-inch-thick glass slabs glow gently at night. “The lighting helps to make the space playful,” said Hawkinson.

But for all its openess, the plaza is still situated in a financial capital, and the adjacent Federal Reserve bank required a guardhouse. Hawkinson sought to minimize the structure’s presence by tucking it in a stealthy black granite box on the plaza’s north side, where it would not be intrusive. “We worked really hard to make Louise Nevelson Plaza a little gem in all this craziness of Lower Manhattan.”


February 20th, 2011, 03:45 PM
That aerial view photo shows the problemmatic FRBNY parking zone that is constantly full of SUV's (private vehicles used by security and other workers at the NY Fed).

These vehicles create a "wall" that blocks off pedestrian access to the park from the Northern side of Maiden Lane. Also quite an eyesore.