A Delicate Move: South Ferry Artwork
Mike and Doug Starn’s “See it split, see it change,” was created for the new construction of the South Ferry Terminal as part of Lower Manhattan revitalization efforts after 9/11. It is a multi-part, unified site-specific installation that evokes the feeling of the Park at the Battery which is above and adjacent to the station. The artwork features an expansive view of a floor-to-ceiling map of the island of Manhattan, in an intricate marble mosaic, extending down the stairs to the platform, an oversized leaf and a wall of silhouetted trees presented in an innovative fused-glass technique, whose patterns are echoed in the artist-designed, stainless-steel fence. Each element of the installation was designed and fabricated with an emphasis on durability.
Artworks in the transit environment are exposed to harsh conditions from heavy public use, environmental conditions and the reality of limited maintenance and the selection and testing of materials is an important part of Arts for Transit’s work. After Super Storm Sandy, this emphasis on durability was validated, as Arts for Transit staff inspected and prepared a report on the condition of the artwork in the system. “ Arts for Transit has always stressed the importance of creating artwork that is durable. We were very pleased to see that our diligence regarding materials has served us and our customers well", said Sandra Bloodworth, Director of Arts for Transit and Urban Design.
Nowhere was the wisdom of focusing on durability in the selection of materials more evident than at the South Ferry Terminal after Super Storm Sandy. The permanent artwork was created to withstand water and it withstood 3 feet of standing water when the storm flooded the station. The glass wall, the fence, and mosaics all withstood the onslaught. However, in order to open up the 1904 platform on the line to accommodate the need for access during the reconstruction, a 20 foot section of the fused glass wall needed to be removed and it needed to be done quickly. The art glass panels were fabricated by Franz Mayer of Munich and installed by Glass Block of America. In order to avoid delays to the emergency reconstruction efforts, and understanding both the urgency and that it would be for a temporary period, the artists’ cooperated in facilitating the temporary removal of a portion of the integrated artwork for the duration of the reconstruction. Arts for Transit documented the artwork, and Glass Block of America carefully removed and packed the glass in crates that are now stored in a room at 2 Broadway, to be reinstalled when the new South Ferry Terminal reopens.