On Thursday, February 16, 2023, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and City Council Member Erik Bottcher joined Garment District Alliance Vice Chair Steve Kaufman and President Barbara Blair to cut the ribbon on the GDA’s new Big Button sculpture on Seventh Avenue at 39th Street. Other dignitaries in attendance included NYCDOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez and NYC Small Business Services Commissioner Kevin Kim, as well as representatives from Hines, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Local Projects, and UAP.
Before the festivities began, more than 150 invited guests enjoyed hot chocolate, coffee and custom Big Button cookies, while Diverse Concert Artists entertained the mingling crowd. Shortly after 11:00 am, invited speakers made brief remarks before grabbing their giant scissors and cutting the ribbon to officially introduce the new Big Button to the world.
Yellow is the New Black
In late 2022, the Alliance removed the kiosk structure and original black button sculpture that had stood at Seventh Avenue and 39th Street in order to make way for our new bright yellow Big Button that stands alone, supported by a mirror-polished steel thread. The new sculpture honors its predecessor and celebrates the Garment District’s rich history, while establishing an iconic piece of public art that represents the neighborhood’s dynamic future.
Why a new Big Button?
In 1996, the Garment District Alliance renovated an existing kiosk structure and erected the first Big Button, designed by James Biber, then of Pentagram Architects. The new Information Kiosk offered business-to-business services to thousands of people each year but, over time, as personal mobile devices became the go-to source for information, kiosk usage dwindled.
In 2017, GDA engaged Local Projects, the experiential design firm, to explore content and design concepts for the future of the kiosk. Through interviews and workshops with community stakeholders, they confirmed that, while a physical kiosk was no longer necessary, the Big Button is a beloved neighborhood icon that should remain and be enhanced as a pop art sculpture and placemaking amenity. Local Projects’ concept of the Big Button supported by a dynamic thread element was an immediate hit with stakeholders.
Thus, the idea for this new public art installation was born.
How was the new Big Button designed?
In 2018, GDA selected UAP, an international design-build firm, to head the sculpture design development and fabrication team that also included Technical Artistry on lighting, as well as Theta Structural Engineering Consulting and McLaren for engineering. The sculpture was fabricated at UAP’s foundry, which has produced artworks for public spaces around the world.
Like its predecessor, the new Big Button lives in the public and private realms, sitting partially on the city sidewalk and partially on the Seventh Avenue plaza of 1411 Broadway. Accordingly, throughout the design development process, GDA and UAP worked closely with the NYC Department of Transportation, as well as Hines, which manages the plaza and adjacent property.
What does the new Big Button look like?
Structural damage made it impossible to re-use the original button, but the need to refabricate opened up opportunities for new materials and finishes. The new sculpture maintains the scale of the original, with a 15-foot diameter button, now made of aluminum and given a bright yellow automotive finish, like the iconic color of an NYC taxi cab. The button is pierced by a 32-foot brushed stainless-steel needle and is supported by a looping steel thread with a mirror polished finish. Reaching a height of 28 feet, the new sculpture creates a dynamic experience for pedestrians who walk under or around it, while improving sight lines and enhancing pedestrian flow on Seventh Avenue.
Who helped along the way?
As the saying goes, “it takes a village,” and that has never been more true than for this project. This has been a long, often complicated, multi-year process for the Garment District Alliance that required the cooperation, advice and support of many individuals and agencies along the way. We thank them all for helping to bring the new Big Button to life.
Mayor Eric Adams and the Mayoral Administration
NYC Council Members Erik Bottcher and Keith Powers
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine
Nathan Adkisson and Peter Vickar from Local Projects
Emily Johnson, Chris Testa and Susan Kosor from UAP
Hines and the team at 1411 Broadway
The Swig Co.
Commissioner Ydanis Rodriquez, Manhattan Borough Commissioner Ed Pincar, Colleen Chattergoon and Nick Pettinati of Department of Transportation
Commissioner Kevin Kim and the Department of Small Business Services
NYC Department of Buildings
NYC Public Design Commission
Garment District property and business owners
Council of Fashion Designers of America
Community Board 5