The Upper Room, Esplanade/Albany Street, Manhattan, New York
For the past few years a major reclamation and restoration effort has been going along around the south western edge of Manhattan Island in New York. A series of public parks have been built along the waterfront of the Hudson river, starting from the Battery park by the Staten Island Ferry terminal. The parks contain monuments to the victims of the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers and public works of art.
The Upper Room is situated next to the Esplanade facing the waterfront at the end of Albany street. The work is the creation of Ned Smyth.
The art of Ned Smyth is based on what he calls ”the idea of a power spot.” He speaks of cathedrals, ancient ruins and desert oases as influences, and now he has created a power spot of his own in Manhattan -a kind of secular temple near the financial district, on the Hudson River.
Part sculpture and part architecture, ”The Upper Room,” is based on Egyptian, Greek, Roman and sundry other ancient architectures. The work resembles a raised courtyard or plaza, and overlooks a breathtaking stretch of the Hudson River. The 70-foot-long courtyard is surrounded by concrete columns, richly decorated with colorful inlaid stones. A long concrete table, with stools, stands near its middle, with a row of smooth chess boards inlaid into the tabletop.
The east end of the plaza also contains a curious structure that holds a key to the work – the courtyard’s own ”power spot.”
The structure is a small, temple-like building whose four columns support a pyramidal roof, which in turn covers a roughly eight-foot-high column whose top bursts, in a most un-columnlike fashion, into a form suggesting a spray of palm leaves.
”It’s not a cross or a five-pointed star or a Buddha,” Mr. Smyth said. ”It’s simply life – the tree of life. Here we are in this neighborhood of huge buildings, and this environment invites us to walk into its space and be touched. To come into a place where we can be at peace, rather than grab a sandwich and run back to our desks.”
A magnet for Wall Street brown-baggers, it is also a favorite resting place for strollers along the esplanade, one of the choicest waterfront walks in the city.