This week I decided to take advantage of Saturday's perfect weather and dedicate all the posts to a few choice Manhattan parks. Enjoy!
While stunning in its own right, it seems that Madison Square Park isn't so much defined by what's in it than by what's around it. Though certainly not as densely-packed with skyscrapers as the financial district or midtown, the number of iconic buildings which surround this humble 7-acre patch of grass is rather startling.
While the Flatiron building on the southwest corner may the best most famous amongst visitors, many locals more closely associate the park with the Met Life Tower & its massive (26.5 ft. in diameter) clock faces. After being renovated in 1964, much of the original ornate renaissance-inspired detailing was removed or covered up by a new limestone facade. If you look at old photos of the tower you can see there seems to be a bit more going on than what we see today. In recent years it's been particularly well-known for being illuminated at night in a manner similar to the Empire State Building.
Also visible from the park are the New York Life Building – something that's hard to miss thanks to its gilded top – as well as the brand new One Madison Park, a sleek and slender condo development which rivals the Met Life Tower in height, but not elegance. Regardless what one may think of the new building, it undoubtedly continues the trend of bringing unique architecture to Madison Square.
The Park itself is usually rather serene with the exception of Shake Shack, which would have a line running down 23rd Street at 4 in the morning on a Tuesday in December if only it were open that late...or in the winter for that matter. However, the day I picked to visit also happened to be the Sikh Cultural Street Festival - so the park was overflowing with energy and colorful garments. Unfortunately for the hundreds (or thousands) who had gathered, the park had yet to open its large center lawn which forced everyone to the crowded pathways.
The park is well-known for hosting different art projects each year wich range from simple and sculptural to more conceptual; such as this year's Event Horizon installation. Event Horizon consists of 31 life-sized figures designed by Antony Gormley which sit around the neighborhood and on top of many buildings near the park. If you look closely you can see the figures staring down at you from above. It's like a big neighborhood-wide easter egg hunt.
While beautifully landscaped (originally by William Grant and Ignatz Pilat- who has ties to Olmstead who was responsible for Central Park), the park still feels rather bland in comparison to other green space around the city. Overall it simply feels flat and predictable. Whereas other parks – such as Carl Schurz Park, which I talked about yesterday – lend themselves to a sense of discovery and unrestrained nature, Madison Square Park feels like an afterthought with a few pathways brought in for good measure.