LM’s Famed Red Cube Invites A Closer Look

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By: Caroline De Tino

If you’ve walked down Broadway in Lower Manhattan, you’ve probably seen the giant red “cube” that appears precariously balanced outside 140 Broadway. While it may not be as memorable as One World Trade Center or the Empire State Building, it visibly stands out from its surroundings and holds a significant meaning.

First of all, you should probably use the word “cube” loosely since the sculpture is an optical illusion. This “cube” is not really a cube. It is a distorted shape that appears to have been stretched from top to bottom. It is primarily composed of diagonal lines juxtaposed against a backdrop of vertical and horizontal lines from surrounding buildings. Most noticeable, however, is the hole in its center, revealing the building right behind it.

This is the vision of Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988), an American artist and industrial designer who believed that sculptors did more than just decorate open spaces — they were collaborators in the creation of significant space and the shapes which would define them.

The meaning of the Red Cube is more than just its structure. The cube is said to signify a rolling die and the role of chance. Not a random theme, given its proximity to Wall Street.

Chances are, if you’ve seen the Red Cube, you’ve seen some of Noguchi’s other works without even realizing it. You know Sunken Garden in 28 Liberty Plaza? That’s also his.

Untapped Cities offers two upcoming tours on public art in LM.  So keep an eye out and take a closer look!