Redefining Public Space

Redefining Public Space

There are some things in life that you come across and know that it’s a bad idea or just plain wrong. This can include food and beverage products, movie remakes, and even public art installations. Some of my picks—no judgment though—are New England Lobster Roll Potato Chips, non-alcoholic wine, ketchup on a filet mignon, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Johnny Depp’s version), and the current public art installation at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Or so I thought—more on that later….

Josie Robertson Plaza, Lincoln Center (looking into the campus).

Full disclosure, when I was the Public Relations Director at FXFOWLE, I served on Lincoln Center’s PR team to publicize Diller Scofidio + Renfro‘s redevelopment and reimagining of its 16-acre urban campus. This also included The Juilliard School, Alice Tully Hall, and the Illumination Lawn. In other words, I know the campus very well, and even back in 2009, one of Lincoln Center’s long-term goals was to reconnect with New York City, including families and younger audiences.

Josie Robertson Plaza, Lincoln Center (looking towards Columbus Avenue).

When I heard Lincoln Center was opening a public art installation on the Josie Robertson Plaza for the summer, I literally rolled my eyes. All I could think was that the beautifully-serene Plaza and fountain would be ruined and turned into a gigantic selfie-site like the Vessel (“interactive artwork” in Hudson Yards) and a few spots along The High Line. Do I sound like a jaded New Yorker? Wait, don’t answer that!

I was curious about how the Plaza would be transformed, so I volunteered to visit The GREEN, and then share my thoughts.

The GREEN is definitely a selfie-site. I was too caught-up in the fun to be annoyed.

Well…(drum roll, please)…I loved it! It makes you want to take off your shoes and run around. Truly, that was my first thought when I stepped onto the installation. Well, ok, my second thought. My first thought was “this is kinda cool.” I kept my shoes on, but it was as if I had been transported back to childhood. Whatever sour thoughts I had before arriving at Lincoln Center, were erased by the sheer fun and experience of The GREEN.

Socks and Dots. One of these sweet gentlemen is a good friend, and the other I met at Lincoln Center.

Walking through the installation was like an immersive playground for all ages. It was functioning exactly as it was intended. The GREEN redefined a super iconic public space and made it even more active, more inviting, more fun, and definitely more accessible and “public.”

I loved watching all the kids have fun riding down The GREEN’s sloped walls. And yes, I did it too.

When I left Lincoln Center (after a bunch of photos, selfies, and sliding down the sloped sides of the installation), I thought about other sites in the city could benefit from an installation like The GREEN. Can you imagine Times Square covered in a sea of green grass? I can, and I definitely won’t keep my shoes on if that happens.

The GREEN can bring out the kid in you. Well, in “you” certainly not me.

Below is taken from Lincoln Center’s website detailing The GREEN. 

Our iconic Josie Robertson Plaza has been re-imagined as we welcome New Yorkers back to our outdoor campus as part of Restart Stages—an outdoor performing arts center with 10 specially created outdoor performance and rehearsal spaces. Celebrated set designer and MacArthur Genius grantee Mimi Lien re-envisioned the space with “The GREEN,” turning the nearly 20,000 square feet of concrete expanse into a participatory public art installation that invites New Yorkers to relax and enjoy the open-air space, along with live performances.

The installation acts as the physical centerpiece of Restart Stages, Lincoln Center’s initiative to help kickstart the arts sector and New York City’s revival. Restart Stages is part of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation-Lincoln Center Agora Initiative, a collaboration bringing new approaches in cultural engagement to public spaces. With pop-up performances, educational workshops, a reading room, and canteen bites and sips, there’s something for the whole family to enjoy this spring and summer at The GREEN.

“When invited to consider how the physical space of Josie Robertson Plaza could be re-envisioned to be a more inclusive and inviting environment, I immediately thought that by changing the ground surface from hard paving stones with no seating to a material like grass, suddenly anyone would be able to sit anywhere,” said Mimi Lien, a designer of sets/environments for theater, dance, and opera.

The GREEN features grass-like recyclable, biobased SYNLawn material, provided by SYNLawn New York. The GREEN is designed so that people with different levels of mobility can access the space. Cane detection for people who are blind or have low vision is integrated into the architecture.

The GREEN is open to visitors from 8am to midnight daily (unless otherwise noted). The installation will end before September 27, when the Met Opera season begins. It will be disassembled and recycled into playgrounds for children in upstate New York.

Funding for Restart Stages was provided by the Lincoln Center Board of Directors and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

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