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In Brooklyn, Grand Army Plaza gets intervention

Immediately after the presidential election was convened in favor of Joseph R. Biden Jr. on November 7, a crowd of delights voluntarily gathered at the Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, dancing loudly around the Soldier and Sailors Memorial Arch. I did. A bronze allegorical figure in Colombia representing America thundered in her carriage surrounded by a winged victorious trumpet figure.

Since its foundation was ceremonially laid by General William Tecumseh Sherman in 1889, in much of its history the arch, a monument to Union veterans of the Civil War, is how the wind blows in Brooklyn. Has shown quite well.

In 1976, during the budget and devastation of local governments, the wind was literal. Colombia was blown from behind her tank to the rear, hanging erratically from the roof of the arch as a symbol of the city’s readiness for malicious laziness. A quick cable operation by a local firefighter prevented her from falling into the square, which led to a major restoration of the arch that began in the late 1970s.

Today, Colombia and her triumphal arch companions are healthy and well cared for, thanks to a privately funded conservation program launched in 1999. But the arch they were standing on wasn’t very lucky. The roof of the 80-foot granite monument broke at least 10 years ago and grows from invasive reed shattered roof tiles. In late 2018, a mortar fell from one of the 9 ton keystones in the arch and the fire department rushed to the scene with police. Since then, barricades have been installed to protect pedestrians from falling debris.

To address this monumental collapse, a full arch restoration will take place next year, funded by Mayor Bill de Blasio for $ 6 million, and by the Prospect Park Alliance, a private non-profit organization that runs the park. It will be executed. Grand Army Plaza affiliated with the city. This project is the first complete restoration of the arch in 40 years, stabilizing and redesignating the exterior walls of the flooded monument, replacing the roof, repairing some of the iron stairs inside, and boring exterior lighting. Upgrade and add new lighting inside.

The alliance will also spend $ 3 million to replace the uneven pavement around the Bailey Fountain in the center of the plaza and restore the berms planted around it. Conservation work is expected to be completed by 2022, after which the interior and roof of the arch will be open to the public on special occasions.

The Great Ellipse, now known as the Grand Army Plaza, was planned by park designers Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted as an elegant and formal entrance to Prospect Park. However, despite the addition of a statue of Abraham Lincoln and a fountain with a large dome, the vast and simple square was not really generally accepted.

“It lacks all life and is a waste of stone. It suggests Siberia in winter and Sahara in summer,” the Park Commission lamented in 1887.

McKim Mead and White’s proud company was held to rethink the square, and republican army veterans sought donations to build the monument. The state provided $ 250,000 when funding was inadequate.

John Hemmingway Duncan, who was also the architect of Grant’s tomb on Riverside Drive in Manhattan, defeated 35 other participants and won a $ 1,000 prize for the design of the commemorative arch. Architect Stanford White then lived in Paris and studied at the influential Ecole de Bois, made by a Brooklyn boy, to create a bronze sculpture group added to the crown of the arch and two pedestals facing the park. Tapped the excellent Frederick McMonnie. -art.

For the pedestal, MacMonnies created two complementary groups of combatants known as the Spirit of the Army and the Spirit of Navy. This is a dynamic and exciting portrayal of the hero and the sadness of war. In the case of the Army group, the sculptor included a type of bronze selfie, as it was said that McMony himself was the police officer who prompted the cluster of soldiers in the scene.

The artist carved his work for the Brooklyn Arch in France, mainly at a foundry in Paris. However, as MacMonnies said, “the man’s knee was pushed into his tie” because the Navy group was loaded onto a steamship, snapped an internal brace, and damaged when deforming the base. The statue was repaired at the direction of the sculptor’s brother, but encountered additional problems at the Brooklyn Bridge, which was stopped because the driver delivering it from New York City did not have permission for wide luggage. But in the end, the “Navy” was lifted to the pier east of the Arch in Brooklyn in 1901.

The Brooklyn monument, reminiscent of the Arch of Titus in Rome, blends classical Roman precedent with an adaptation of the French neoclassical form. “Use of a sculpture group on a pedestal attached to a pier” was borrowed from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Art historian Elizabeth McCorreis wrote in the Classical Reception Journal in 2016 that Colombia at the Arc de Triomphe and her horse-drawn carriage are also in Paris, “a large group of sculptures at the top of the Arc de Triomphe.”

The interior of the Brooklyn arch was also designed with some fine classical details, but the structure is so devastated that it clearly feels like it’s in ruins by the end of the day. The 107-step iron spiral staircase, which elegantly unplugs the two piers, is severely corroded by chronic leaks and high humidity. Icicles are even known to form in winter.

The chipped and rusted cast iron New Elpost is in the shape of a Roman “Fasces”. This is a bunch of sticks with a single ax head, carried as a symbol of authority during the procession of the Arc de Triomphe. Some of the ax heads are missing, but they are replaced with new castings made from molds taken from the surviving counterparts. The stairs at the East Wharf will be repaired.

Above the arch is an empty 44-foot-long trophy room built to house the relics of the war and once home to the Puppet Library, with rusted beams supporting the vaulted ceiling and concrete. There are pools of water on the floor.

Understanding the structural elements hidden under the floor was important in determining the extent of the restoration work required. The original plans for the arch did not survive, and drawings from the restoration of the 1970s left an important mystery of the construction of the arch unsolved.

These 70’s plans “point to these voids and say’structure unknown’,” said Alden Madrid, architect of the Prospect Park Alliance, who oversees the restoration. “I wanted to make sure that the arch structure was reasonably well-shaped so that it wouldn’t fall off.”

As a result, the alliance adopted state-of-the-art technology to investigate hidden structures without carving out a monument. A radar scan across the floor of the trophy room revealed the presence of seven beams running east-west above the arch, but the pulsed field gradients generated by the pacomometer confirmed that the beams were made of metal. Did. Borescope investigations have shown that the beam is in good condition. All these discoveries came as a relief.

“In the case of arches, the natural movement of the structure is to push the tower out,” said Madrid. “But if there is something stable that connects these two towers together so that these beams can, it is more stable.”

Jonathan Kuhn, longtime director of art and antiques at the Park Bureau, said the most successful monument transcends the original memorial function.

“The arch transcended the origin of its meaning,” he said. “It has taken on a rare level of visibility as it has come to represent the autonomous region that was its own city.”

In recent months, Arch has also been a venue for Black Lives Matter demonstrations and community gatherings to celebrate Biden’s expected victory.

“Its importance lies in the tension between the status of the arch as this monumental, solid and lasting landmark, which at the time meant to be timeless. — On the one hand, these meanings, And after the killing of George Floyd by police, changes in the composition of the square, the use of those spaces, changes in the population, and more recently the additional changing implications that have been the focus of these protests. ” Art historian Michel H. Bogart, author of “New York City Public Sculpture and Citizen’s Ideals, 1890-1930”.

The tension between the permanent and the temporary is also greatly eased by the compromised physical structure of the monument itself.

“Currently, it’s very vulnerable. The Parks Department knows more than anyone else that bronze and stone are as fragile as the trees and natural materials they supervise, in their own way.” He added. “It’s a fragile object, and what this work is about to do is to allow people to gather there for some reason and find meaning in what they see, whatever their meaning. I think it’s wonderful.”

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In Brooklyn, Grand Army Plaza gets intervention

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