With Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing canceled and the 2020–21 season of the Metropolitan Opera called off due to the COVID pandemic, Manhattan’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts complex has found another way to capitalize on their sweeping outdoor plaza while also creating outdoor performance venues.
Enter the Restart Stages initiative, which, beginning May 10, will realize a faux grass “park” called The GREEN across the 14,000-square-foot Josie Robertson Plaza. The iconic Philip Johnson, Wallace K. Harrison, and Max Abramovitz-designed plaza will instead become a place to relax while still observing social distancing protocols amid ramps, raised seating, and semicircular hideaways all rendered in fake grass around Revson Fountain. Special consideration was given to accessibility for both visually and mobility impaired patrons, hence the park’s gentle curves and wide-open sightlines.
“When invited to consider how the physical space of Josie Robertson Plaza could be re-envisioned to be a more inclusive and inviting environment,” said set designer Mimi Lien, who created the expansive installation, in a press release, “I immediately thought that by changing the ground surface from hard paving stones with no seating to a material like grass, suddenly anyone would be able to sit anywhere.
“I hope that this curved grass surface will feel like an embrace and an expanse at the same time, and will reimagine the Plaza as a site of social infrastructure, like a town green – a place to gather, a common ground.”
Lien, who has previously designed sets for Broadway shows and performances at Longwood Gardens alike, was awarded a MacArthur Genius grant in 2015 for her architecturally inspired experimental sets that excel at visualizing the mental states of the characters. The GREEN will be made from biosynthetic SYNLawn, a faux-grass made mainly from U.S.-sourced soy that looks like natural terrain but without any of the necessary maintenance. Hudson Scenic Studio will handle fabrication.
Visitors will be able to access The GREEN from 9:00 a.m. through midnight from May 10 through September of this year (the 2021-22 season of the Met Opera begins September 27, 2021, and they presumably need traffic across the plaza unimpeded), though masks and distancing will be required.
As part of Restart Stages, which launched April 7 and will ultimately set up 10 outdoor performance venues across the city, The GREEN will host an outdoor reading room furnished by books from the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts (the NYPL branch at Lincoln Center). A full list of outdoor events that will be held on The GREEN will come in the next month leading up to the project’s opening.
Once the installation is complete, The GREEN will be disassembled and recycled into playgrounds for children in upstate New York. Funding for Restart Stages was provided by the Lincoln Center Board of Directors and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.