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Art Find: The New York Earth Room & The Broken Kilometer

SoHo may be scrubbed, polished and bedazzled to within an inch of its life, but hidden among the boutiques and Michelin-starred restaurants are a few small remnants of SoHo’s past as the heart of New York’s (and possibly the country’s, and – am I going too far? – the world’s) art scene.

The New York Earth Room (1977) occupies a sprawling second floor loft overlooking Wooster Street. A small, discreet sign at the street door is the only clue of its existence – ringing the doorbell and waiting to be buzzed in elicits the same exhilarating thrill as sneaking into the coolest secret VIP party. Arriving upstairs, the first glimpse of 280,000 pounds of loamy soil filling an otherwise empty loft is strangely stirring. The air is heavy with the pungent dampness of the installation, which Bill Dilworth; the Earth Room’s long-term caretaker; has been diligently raking and watering continuously for the last 23 years.

This is one of two installations by conceptual artist Walter De Maria (a contemporary of Judd, Warhol, and Beuys, not to mention his stint as drummer for the Velvet Underground) that have been on permanent display since the 1970s; stubborn relics of SoHo’s grittier past.

Around the corner on West Broadway is the second installation; The Broken Kilometer (1979); occupying a vast ground level space. 500 polished brass rods are meticulously arranged in perfect rows, the spacing between each rod varying by a matter of millimeters as they recede from view. It’s both spectacular in its scale, and visually dazzling; the rods appear to ripple like the surface of a golden pool of water stretching toward the horizon.

These installations have lost none of their relevance and potency since being first displayed in the 70s, yet somehow the steady transformation of New York and the intense gentrification of SoHo in particular has given the works another layer of meaning (The real estate value of a sun-filled loft in the heart of SoHo is an uncomfortable truth that will strike a cord with any New Yorker). The passing of time has also not gone unnoticed at The Broken Kilometer, where the dedicated staff painstakingly polish the rods and assess the settling of the building every two years, propping up the rods at individual heights to ensure they stay perfectly level – even as the historic floorboards shift and sag away below them.

A visit to these curiously moving fragments of New York history is essential for anyone who has ever romanticized the golden age of the SoHo art scene of the 70s and 80s – between, of course, shopping and cocktails.

The New York Earth Room
141 Wooster Street, New York

The Broken Kilometer
393 West Broadway, New York

Earth Room Broken Kilometer NYC | meltingbutter.com Art Hotspot1Walter De Maria, The New York Earth Room, 1977. Long-term installation, 141 Wooster Street, New York City. Photo: John Cliett

Earth Room Broken Kilometer NYC | meltingbutter.com Art Hotspot2Photo: Benedikt Josef

Benedikt Josef | Melting Butter ContributorBenedikt is Melting Butter’s NYC-based design editor. He’s also a freelance architect, designer and writer with work that’s grounded in a strong multi-disciplinary focus, encompassing architecture, interiors, product design, curation and visual communication. Right now, Benedikt’s creative projects include an illustrated book, a site-specific art installation in the Manhattan streetscape, and several ongoing creative collaborations.Read about Benedikt’s favorite hotspots here

Feature Photo: Walter De Maria, The Broken Kilometer, 1979. Long-term installation, 393 West Broadway, New York City. Photo: Jon Abbott

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Hummus Veggie Cups, Pesto Pita Pizzas & New York

Hummus Veggie Cups, Pesto Pita Pizzas & New York

A little over a week ago, I traveled to New York City with my friends from Sabra and Toufayan Bakeries to do a live demo at the New York Kids’ Food Festival.

I’m lucky to have been invited back a second year. The only downside of an outdoor event in the middle of Bryant Park in New York City in February is the cold. At a whopping 26 degrees Fahrenheit, outdoor cooking isn’t easy. Fine motor skills were the first to go.

I’m glad I thought of making a hot meal for the food demo. As yo can see from the picture, it was quite a chilly day. I’m not sure if the crowd was smiling because I was cute, funny, or their anticipation of a warm bowl of soup.

The hummus snack cups were instant crowd pleasers. One thing everyone seemed to love about the recipe is that the hummus veggie cups could be made ahead of time. All you have to do is fill a reusable lidded jar with hummus, fresh veggies, and store then in the refrigerator. I make these often with one of the many Sabra hummus varieties, the olive tapanade being my personal favorite.

After everyone got their snack on, I made Pesto Pita Pizzas. I often use pitas in my husband’s office lunches. He loves the little pockets stuffed with tuna salad, chicken salad, egg salad, or pulled pork.

Pita Pizzas, however, are one of my go-to meals on days when my kids have friends over. The pitas serve as the base for the plethora of toppings that come out of my refrigerator or freezer. At the Kid’s Festival, I simply layered pesto, a little mozzarella, and parmesan cheese on top of the pitas. Using a toaster oven, I toasted the pitas and cut them into strips to make instant pesto cheese sticks!

My goal was to show festival attendees how easy it can be to make food from ingredients that are likely to be in our refrigerators and pantries. Soup leftovers can be heated up and sent to school (or the office) in a thermos along with a few crispy pesto pizza wedges.

As you can see, the Tomato & Tortellini Soup was a hit! You can watch how the recipe is made here. It’s simple, delicious, and very filling.

When I was handing out samples, I learned that there are a lot of kids that love eating hummus. Many parents were surprised at the versatility and how it helped their kids eat more veggies. In the end, if it helps our kids eat more veggies, it’s something I am happy to support.

A huge thank you goes out to my friends at Sabra and Toufayan for supporting my work. Without their support, attending events like this one would not always be possible.

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Laura Fuentes



May 18, 2015

A Little (Big) Bite out of New York

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Mike and I have been back from NYC for a couple of days now and I’ve got to say, as much as the city was a ton of fun, I’m happy to be home. My tummy is happy to be home too – I think I stuffed it past the point of reason! We walked everywhere (even across the Williamsburg Bridge a couple of times), visited a couple of our old haunts and even found some new favorites.

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