100 Years of Iconic Architecture, 50 Years of Ground-breaking Artists, Creatively Enhanced Lower Manhattan.
Launched as part of River To River in 2014, Creative Insider’s Guide to Lower Manhattan, sponsored in part by Lower Manhattan HQ, brings together the idiosyncratic histories of Lower Manhattan’s iconic architecture, the ground-breaking artists who have lived and worked here, and mobile app-guided journeys created by today’s contemporary artists into one interactive online map. Much like its print predecessor published in partnership with the Whitney Museum in 1990 as part of the “Forging a Metropolis: Walking Tours of Lower Manhattan Architecture”, this web-based update feeds the curious and creative mind with ways to discover unique aspects of Lower Manhattan’s built environment while exploring its past and imagining its future.
Please note that LMCC will continue to add new locations and artists to this map. If you wish to share your recommendations for additions please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Creative Insider’s Guide to Lower Manhattan is co-edited by Morgan von Prelle Pecelli, PhD and Melissa Levin.
The installation along Water Street is coordinated by the DOT Art Program with support from DOT Borough Engineering.
Explore a selection of Creative Insider Guide entries as you walk along Water Street between Maiden and Wall Streets. Approximately 16 images and narrative essays will be on view June 16–August 15, 2016.
As one of the most architecturally rich global cities, New York is broadly known for its skyline and its ongoing experimentation and innovation in verticality. With the soon-to-be-completed redesign of much of Lower Manhattan, the area is a unique microcosm showcasing over 100 years of human creativity, from the early experiments in height at the Woolworth Building to the ingenuity exemplified by the above- and below-ground marvels of the new World Trade Center Site.
The Creative Insider’s Guide “Iconic Lower Manhattan Architecture” layer reveals lesser known stories and facts about these buildings, their design, and the innovations that make them significant touch points in the evolution of the built environment. For example, the west side of Lower Manhattan boasts the handsome Art Deco style of the Downtown Athletic Club juxtaposed with the Post-Modern Brookfield Place and luscious green space of Battery Park City. To the east, visitors can take in the New York Harbor from the still developing esplanade as well as the South Street Seaport Museum’s historic ships and an icon of cast-iron construction techniques in the United States, the Bogardus Building. At the heart of Lower Manhattan sits the meditative 9/11 Memorial, while underneath it, the newly built World Trade Center Concourse gives visitors a taste of the ultra-futuristic design in store for the entire redesigned World Trade Center campus. In contrast, the neo-classical design of the Cunard Building and the Georgian architecture of St. Paul’s Chapel on Broadway still stand as defining aesthetic landmarks that shaped Lower Manhattan. The nearby, City Hall Park, which has played a key role in civic life since the area’s Colonial beginnings, offers refuge with its dozen monuments, Mould fountain, lawn, and benches. Looking south, historic and heritage museums such as the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Skyscraper Museum provide insight into the cultural and architectural origins of New York City, while the southern vistas from Battery Park to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Governors Island inspire future generations to care for the cultural and environmental legacy of Lower Manhattan.
For over 40 years, LMCC has been working downtown, highlighting the artwork happening in the district and bringing artists to Lower Manhattan to create work and respond to this unique landscape of skyscrapers, waterfronts, and windy streets. However, in the 1950s, the American Avant-garde came together in Lower Manhattan and began to forge a particularly New York aesthetic. Their vibrant energy and fearless innovation drew other artists from around the globe into the mix, ensuring New York City’s place within the global cultural landscape. The artists working in Lower Manhattan over the last 50 years have continued to thrive on the tenets of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, and investigative exploration meanwhile shaping new forms of expression, new technologies, and new ways of engaging the communities with which they share their urban landscape. The Creative Insider’s Guide “Iconic Lower Manhattan Artists” layer reveals who these historic artists were and what they have done to change the face of both Lower Manhattan and contemporary culture.
Lower Manhattan represents a place not only where artists have lived and worked, but also where landmark public performances have occurred and works have been built. In the 1950s and 60s seminal artists, Gary Indiana, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, and James Rosenquist among them, quite literally pioneered the waterfront in Lower Manhattan establishing their live- and work-spaces at Coenties Slip purposefully creating a refuge from the Abstract Expressionist movement that was developing a little further uptown. Today, LMCC continues the tradition of creating space for artists to work downtown with innovative artist residency programs starting with World Views in the World Trade Center to our Workspace and Process Space programs today.
From the 1950s up until the present, artists have been commissioned to create work in, on, and around buildings, plazas and parks throughout the area – from a 1959 mosaic mural by Lee Krasner and her nephew Ronald Stein at 2 Broadway, which stands as Krasner’s only public work, to Keith Haring’s iconic ebullient figures from the 1980s at 17 State Street and Julie Mehretu’s 2010 Mural at the new Goldman Sachs headquarters. Other works like Richard Serra’s 1981 controversial Tilted Arc at Federal Plaza and Agnes Denes’ poignant Wheatfield – A Confrontation in the Battery Park Landfill played significant roles in defining history, and yet are also lost to it – having been destroyed or intentionally ephemeral respectively. Still other singular works of performance like Trisha Brown’s Roof Piece in 1971 spanning multiple rooftops in a 10-block area and Eiko and Koma’s Event Fission at the temporary Battery Park Landfill in 1980 both responded to the evolving, inciting, and exciting architecture and politics of Lower Manhattan at those times taking advantage of the unique vantage points, surfaces, and backdrops afforded by vertical, waterfront, empty, and/or transitional space.
On a walk through Lower Manhattan today, visitors can wander through Shadows and Flags, Louise Nevelson’s towering installation of seven sculptures in the eponymous plaza established in 1977-78 – notably the first plaza in New York City to be named for an artist. Further up Broadway, one can also still step into LaMonte Young and Marian Zazeela’s psychadelic Dream House for a visual and sonic experience like no other, conceived more than 20 years ago, but clearly a predecessor to so much experimental and participatory work created today. More privately, but in a most progressive partnership with a public entity, Mierle Laderman Ukeles continues to work in Lower Manhattan as an artist-in-residence with the New York City Department of Sanitation, a position she has held since the 1970s. We also honor artist Michael Richards who, as a participant in LMCC’s World Views artist residency program, lost his life too soon on 9/11 with so many others, and whose remaining, extraordinarily prophetic work reminds us that an artist’s imagination is an almost inconceivably powerful force.
Together, the lives, bodies, and bodies of work by artists who lived and worked here and continue to make Lower Manhattan their creative home demonstrate an unparalleled rigor of practice and engagement with history, site, and possibility.
As a supplement to the historical data included in this Guide, LMCC has also started to collect an archive of mobile-device enhanced walking tours of Lower Manhattan. Increasingly contemporary artists are working with mobile technology in order to transform our experience of the built environment. For the past few years LMCC has been connecting River To River audiences to unique artistic projects that use Lower Manhattan as their canvas, including everything from leveraging the new technologies to orchestrate crowd-based experiences in Rockefeller Park, in front of the New York Stock Exchange or at the South Street Seaport, to augmenting the unique reality of the districts waterfront and architecture through original musical compositions or responsive imagery. We like to think of these aesthetic augmentations as the “Creatively Enhanced Lower Manhattan” layer of the guide. These apps can be downloaded and experienced anytime, enhancing your experience and understanding of Lower Manhattan’s creativity and dynamism.