While the Fashion Center Business Improvement District (BID) keeps the district's public spaces in top form, it has the dubious distinction of presiding over a neighborhood that is increasingly hard to identify. Gone are the bustling streets filled with garment racks and the crowds of garment workers. The area once produced 70% of the nation's women's garments and 40% of the men's garment, and is now home to showrooms and other commercial uses.
The Fashion Center (once called the Garment Center) had a problem; unlike Times Square, or Central Park or even the West Village, it was nearly impossible to know if you were passing through the district. At the site of a freestanding kiosk we proposed to erect an icon to remedy that lack of identity.
Michael Bierut had designed a new identity for the BID, a button with 5 holes in the shape of an "F" for fashion. Together we designed and had built a 3D version of that logo, along with its companions, the needle, the fabric swatch and spool of thread.
With apologies to Claes Oldenburg, the monumental urban icon has given the Fashion Center a...well, a center.
The conception of the icon was one thing, but the execution was among the most complicated ever. The kiosk sat half on public and half on private property; was built during the Lindsay administration; had no real Buildings Department approval and was on the verge of collapse. We developed an independent structure hidden within the existing kiosk to support the icon even if the kiosk disappeared! The stainless steel needle acting as a support column was made from a structural flagpole and the fiberglass button was fitted with a steel internal structure and filled with foam.
In the end the button has not only lasted more than 15 years, but is looking nearly as fresh as the day it was awarded the 1995 Art Commission Award for Public Architecture. Not to mention being featured in a Zippy the Pinhead strip.
After a recent repair to the 'swatch' portion of the kiosk, we are currently working once again with the Fashion Center, this time on Broadway Boulevard.