In 1952, Gordon Bunshaft, chief architect of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, invited Isamu Noguchi to plan an urban garden for the plaza of Lever House. Bunshaft's approach to resolving the large open area under his building was relatively novel in the early 1950s, in that he thought of the area as a site for an environmental, sculptural work. This project was the beginning of one of Noguchi's most important and innovative collaborations with an architect.
Bunshaft stated: 'We hoped to have sculpture integrated with the total design, including landscape, and Noguchi was the only sculptor that I knew of in the world who had the requisite knowledge of architecture, of plant material and space design'it seemed to us wrong to have a predetermined design for a plaza and terrace'.'
Noguchi made two detailed designs that featured a large marble-encased platform perforated with planting areas, a shallow reflecting pool, and columnar biomorphic sculptures in stone and marble. The project, however, was never realized at Lever House, although Noguchi incorporated elements of his design into subsequent projects, including buildings later designed by Gordon Bunshaft.
The current installation of Noguchi sculptures on the Lever House outdoor plaza is a long-term loan from the Isamu Noguchi Foundation, New York. This display of eight sculptures in granite, basalt, steel, and aluminum does not attempt to recreate or suggest the artist's original proposal. Rather, it is presented in the spirit of Noguchi's original plan to integrate contemporary sculpture and architecture into the urban environment. In addition, the plaza now features a number of round and square seats in black and white marble that were part of Noguchi's original 1952 proposal. To coincide with the sculpture installation on the outdoor plaza, the Lever House Lobby Gallery presents a temporary exhibition of six bronze sculptures that were completed by the artist in 1962.
The Isamu Noguchi Foundation, Inc., is dedicated to maintaining and promoting the artist legacy of sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988). The Foundation operates the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum; manages an extensive archive and collection of Noguchi works; and organizes exhibitions and loans of the works of Isamu Noguchi. The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum is located at 9-01 33rd Road at Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, New York.
Richard D. Marshall, Curator
Works in the Exhibition:
All sculptures are lent courtesy of The Isamu Noguchi Foundation, Inc., New York; Bonnie Rychlak, Curator.
Age, 1981, Basalt
Sculpture Finding, 1979, Basalt
Thebes, 1982, Basalt
To Darkness, 1965-66, Miharu granite
Black and Blue (Interior Landscape), 1959-81, Painted aluminum
The Kite, 1958, Stainless steel
Pylon (Tall One), 1958-82, Hot-dipped galvanized steel
The Sun at Midnight, 1973, Granite
Lessons of Musokokushi, 1962, Bronze
Mortality, 1962, Bronze
Shodo Flowing, 1962, Bronze
Soliloquy, 1962, Bronze
Spirit, 1962, Bronze
Victim, 1962, Bronze
Model of First Proposal for Lever House Sculpture Garden, 1952. (View toward East, from above)
Model of Second Proposal for Lever House Sculpture Garden, 1952. (View toward Southeast, from above)
Model of Second Proposal for Lever House Sculpture Garden, 1952. (View from Park Avenue)
Model of Second Proposal for Lever House Sculpture Garden, 1952. (View from 53 Street)
ISAMU NOGUCHI looking into model for Lever House Sculpture Garden, 1952