One Liberty Plaza, 1971-74
Zuccotti Park, 1980/2006

 

This site is included in LMCC’s Creative Insider’s Guide to Lower Manhattan, sponsored by Launch LM.

Following World War II, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) built three memorable modern skyscrapers in Lower Manhattan. The last of the group, located between Broadway and Church Street, is One Liberty Plaza at 165 Broadway. Whereas the first two, One Chase Manhattan Plaza and the former Marine Midland Bank building at 140 Broadway, were built under partner Gordon Bunshaft, this 54-story structure (772 feet) was designed by Roy O. Allen in 1971-74. Commissioned as a joint venture by Galbreath-Ruffin, a real estate firm, and the United States Steel Corporation, One Liberty Plaza resembles the 1965 Chicago (Daley) Civic Center, which SOM co-designed. Although the structural frame of One Liberty Plaza appears to be exposed, it is, in fact, clad with black steel panels that give the mostly metal elevations a powerfully sculptural, “High-tech” quality. Olympia & York, now part of Brookfield Office Properties, purchased the building in 1984.

One Liberty Plaza occupies a two-block site in which the smaller south block is the privately owned public space known as Zuccotti Park. Due to a long-term restaurant lease the sloping three-quarter-acre park was completed in 1980, seven years after the tower. By not developing the site with an independent building, the owners were able to transfer the development rights across the street, permitting a much larger building – about one third larger than usual. Originally called Liberty Park, the plaza was renamed in 2006 after John Zuccotti, Brookfield Office Properties’ chairman and long-time New York City, and Lower Manhattan, developer.

On 9/11, rumors circulated that One Liberty Plaza had collapsed. Though untrue (the building quickly reopened), the debris-covered park served as a staging area for Federal emergency workers. Rebuilt in 2005-6, it featured an entirely new design by Cooper, Robertson & Partners, the firm that had prepared the master plan for Battery Park City. Now turned at a diagonal to the surrounding street grid, the granite pavers, trees, and lighting are oriented toward the reemerging World Trade Center. The park features two works of art: Joie de Vivre, a 1998 red painted steel piece by Mark di Suvero, and Double Check, a somewhat sentimental depiction of a seated businessman with an open briefcase by J. Seward Johnson. The latter statue, which was first installed in 1982, has been recast and replaced by a duplicate bronze.

Zuccotti Park was also the site of Occupy Wall Street. For nearly two months during fall 2011, as many as two hundred demonstrators camped and protested various social and economic issues, particularly income inequality. Though the encampment was cleared in November 2011 by New York City Police, these protests gained international attention, inspiring similar protests throughout the world.

Today, as part of its goal to engage diverse communities by activating their public spaces with free cultural experiences, Arts Brookfield (http://artsbrookfield.com/) presents visual art exhibitions, music concerts, and performing arts events both inside the lobby of One Liberty Plaza and in Zuccotti Park.

Matthew A. Postal