7. The most contentious area of LC’s redevelopment is the North Plaza, home to iconic elements designed by Modernist giants, architect Eero Saarinen, landscape architect Dan Kiley, and sculptor Henry Moore.
The North Plaza, with the Hypar Pavilion on the left and Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure in the Milstein Pool, has been radically redone.
Attacking the old Lincoln Center’s “social fusion and alienation” that could “only be construed as failure,” architect Elizabeth Diller argued that the tranquility and abstract simplicity of Dan Kiley’s original North Court had deteriorated into an ugly expanse of hard surfaces that couldn’t be easily fixed. Kiley’s planters and elegant paving stones had been allowed to decay, and his quartet of London plane trees had been replaced with single plantings of pear trees.
Her hope was to preserve Kiley’s intent by making the area into a “social condenser,” a Soviet constructivist idea that public spaces can influence behavior by breaking down hierarchies and creating socially equitable spaces. Oddly, this old Soviet idea seems to work. As admirers of Kiley, we are sad to see so little left of his landscape. And the preservationists are surely correct that Kiley’s landscape became overgrown, abandoned, and destroyed because of a lack of understanding of its merits by the city and a lack of maintenance by the agencies in charge. These issues of preservation and change are worthy of further public discussion, but in the meantime the market response to the new North Plaza is overwhelmingly favorable.