The end of an era

The architects of the Bauhaus felt that good architecture and good art uplifts the lives of those who work surrounded by it.   Le Corbusier built worker housing assuming that the fact that good design could improve the lives of workers the same way that fair wages and good working conditions also improve the lives of workers.
As much as I adore good architecture, I had assumed that this was entirely utopian thinking on his part. That is, until a few weeks ago when my husband took me to see this mosaic in the lobby of 1375 Broadway. 
lubin mosaic

lubin5This mosaic mural depicts the history of textiles.

The piece was designed by Jack Lubin who produced several similar monumental mosaic murals in public spaces in New York City. Lubin was known primarily as a mural painter. This mural is a wonderful homage to the history of textile production.

One of my favorite parts of the mural is the workmanship in the background. One would expect the mosaic tiles to be set in straight rows. Instead, the green tiles in the background are set into undulating waves. They are quite mesmerizing. The figures in the mural are abstracted and cubistic but the tension between the cubistic forms and the undulating background pulls the viewer to keep looking at the piece.

As we admired the mural, one of the guards in the building joined us. He mentioned that the building had new owners who were planning to destroy the mosaics because they want to renovate the lobby.The guard talked about the deep pleasure he gets from working in the same space with such a marvelous piece. He talked with pride about passers by who come into the building to admire the mosaic. He mentioned how much he loved working in that space.

It could be that Le Corbusier was right.


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