Changes proposed to plaza of 140 Broadway
February 20, 2018
Gordon Bunshaft’s 140 Broadway (1967, originally Marine Midland Bank), became a NYC landmark in 2013. The large plaza displaying Isamu Noguchi’s sculpture “Cube” provides an important counterpoint to Bunshaft’s design. On January 22, the Tribeca Trib reported that the building owners had requested approval from the LPC for changes to the plaza including replacing the current planters and a plaque (both installed in 2000) with six new circular planters with engaged seating and eight light bollards. There was also a separate request, not subject to LPC review, to the Department of Transportation to install planters and benches on the public sidewalk along Broadway. At a Community Board 1 meeting on January 23, the board removed this element of the proposal, but did approve the rest of the plan, which includes the addition of the large circular planters.
The LPC was at first scheduled to hear the proposal on February 6, but then changed its status to “laid over.” In a letter to the LPC, Charles Birnbaum, founder of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, spoke against the changes, saying they would “not only adversely affect the experience of Noguchi’s sculpture, but of the building and the plaza as well, for all three elements are compositionally intertwined.”
This is not the first time potentially inappropriate changes have been proposed to this site. In 2015, DOCOMOMO NY/Tri-State testified at an LPC hearing, urging the architect team to reconsider its proposal to add new retail entrances detailed in a manner inconsistent with Bunshaft’s impeccably detailed flush surface. Those changes were regrettably approved despite broad opposition from the preservation and design community.
The plaza redesign proposal is now back on the LPC hearing calendar for March 6, with the presentation materials available for preview March 2. DOCOMOMO NY/Tri-State will be reviewing the proposed design and determining a position at that time. Bunshaft’s minimalist matte-finished black façade and the building’s generous setback and plaza make it one of the finest Modern movement office buildings in New York City.
“FiDi Tower Owner Hopes to Displace Food Vendors with Street Furniture,” Tribeca Trib, January 22, 2018.
“Lower Manhattan’s 140 Broadway Under Threat,” tclf.org, January 29, 2018.
“Lower Manhattan’s celebrated 140 Broadway may get unwelcome ornament,” curbed.com, January 30, 2018.