On September 17th, New York artists, architects, and designers gathered in lower Manhattan to celebrate the newly anointed South Street Seaport Culture District.
Conceived by The Howard Hughes Corporation (the Seaport’s primary developer), exhibitions by the AIANY’s Center for Architecture, the Guggenheim, No Longer Empty, and Eyebeam, among others, created programming in spaces damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The installations were complemented by live music, and food by Smorgasburg. James Sanders (of JS + A Studio) curated the event.
Often maligned by New Yorkers for its tourist sensibilities, The Howard Hughes Corporation counters this perception by positioning the Seaport as a “cultural incubator,” a destination for the arts that draws on the area’s singular role in the city’s economic and maritime history.
At 181 Front Street, AIANY curated Sea Level: Five Boroughs at Water’s Edge. The exhibition featured Elizabeth Fellicela’s panoramic photographs taken on the riverfronts, inlets, and coastlines of New York City. Select images are paired with essays by urbanist and author Robert Sullivan. AIGA/NY curated an exhibition at 192 Front Street that focuses on the iterative nature of design across disciplines.
No Longer Empty, a public art organization that curates temporary, site-specific installations in vacant spaces, commissioned Teresa Diehl: Breathing Waters, an immersive installation that draws on the Seaport’s location near the confluence of the East and Hudson rivers. Visitors meander through curtains of water droplets fashioned from clear resin, lulled into a meditative state by the projections and sounds meant to simulate submergence.
The South Street Culture District is part of The Howard Hughes Corporation’s larger development vision for the area. The developers will invest approximately $1.5 billion to build up the South Street Seaport, and adjacent Pier 17, for residential and commercial use.
Plans have met with fierce opposition from community groups and preservationists who claim the proposed developments are out of scale with the neighborhood.
The events and exhibitions may not mollify opponents of the redevelopment, but they do provide a valuable public platform for the art and architecture in lower Manhattan. Programming at the Seaport runs through December 31st, 2015.