Stacy Levy, artist, collaborated with with research ecologist, Judy Yaquin Li, NOAA Fisheries, to represent giant versions of diatoms that live in the East River on embossed, concrete pavers. 

The work, Diatom Lace, features Coscinodiscus, Navicula, and Cyclotella of the East River on 5,000 embossed concrete pavers of the newly completed East Midtown Greenway.

From Diatom Lace on the East River

The artist was influenced by the patterned tiles made by Gaudi in Barcelona, Spain in 1904. These mythical sea creature pavers show a different world of what is ‘under the sea’ and puts those forms underfoot. Levy thought about how a paving pattern could picture the actual creatures living in the waters of the East River and thought “what would happen if Gaudi worked with the environmental biologist Rachel Carson?” Working with micro-organism scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, she created a true-to-site image of what lives in the river— so people can get to know their aquatic neighbors. Almost a hundred years after Gaudi’s tiles, the East River Esplanade now has its own underfoot experience of the local aquatic world.

Levy’s installation is one piece of the park that shows its dedication to the natural environment. Another element is the engineered soil used throughout the park. This soil will collect stormwater and help to nurture newly planted trees. Certified compost, recycled organic materials, and other vital nutrients will also help to keep the soil healthy.

The artwork is part of the East Midtown Greenway/ East River Esplanade. The East Midtown Greenway was designed by Stantec and funded by The New York Economic Development Corporation and the New York City Parks Department. The art commission was curated by Via Partnership.