1997/2003, Battery Place at 1 Place near the Hudson River

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

Battery Park and Battery Park City contain numerous commemorative monuments but perhaps none as ambitious as the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. Located at the north corner of Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park, between the Hudson River and Battery Place, it consists of two interlocking structures, each designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo & Associates. Roche, who designed many additions to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was also responsible for the Deutsche Bank Building at 60 Wall Street.

The first building, completed in September 1997, contains separate floors devoted to late 19th and early 20th-century Jewish history, the persecution of more than six million Jews during World War II, and the renewal of Jewish life and traditions after 1945. Similar to architect James Ingo Freed’s 1993 Hall of Remembrance at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., it is a somber Post-Modern design, with smooth balanced facades of polished gray granite. Since the number six carries great symbolic weight in Jewish culture, each of the six sides has six windows and the ziggurat-shaped roof has six tiers of splayed concrete louvers. Like a coastal beacon, this striking feature is softly illuminated at night.

Almost immediately, a second structure was needed and built. Dedicated in September 2003, the four-story Robert M. Morgenthau wing contains the entrance, offices, classrooms and additional space for gallery exhibitions, as well as a spacious auditorium for public programs. In contrast to the hushed character of the earlier building, the expansion’s horizontal massing is unusual and deceptively complex, with gently curving walls and dark ribbon-like fenestration that animate the sleek granite facades. Though significantly larger than the 1997 building, the architect’s skillful manipulation of abstract forms respect and defer to the museum’s original core structure.

The raised terrace between these buildings, which opens toward the harbor, contains British artist Andy Goldworthy’s “Garden of Stones,” sponsored by the Public Art Fund in 2003. Consisting of 18 dwarf oak trees planted inside the hollows of granite boulders of varying size, it was the artist’s first permanent commission in New York City. Goldworthy’s poignant and ever-changing installation is open to the public during museum hours at no charge.

Matthew A. Postal