August 27, 2012 State officials have reversed their decision to demolish ''Green Acres,'' the landscape sculpture outside the Department of Environmental Protection building in Trenton.
Artist Athena Tacha said a state official called her last week to say Gov. Chris Christie has reversed plans to tear down the 77- by 85-foot modernist work, a site-specific public art piece commissioned in 1985 to celebrate the state's land protection program.
''It is a fantastic victory for art and culture!'' Tacha wrote in an email.
DEP spokesman Larry Ragonese confirmed the decision.
''We decided not to demolish the sculpture and we will be assessing the future of the plaza, in particular the safety issues related to the existing situation,'' Ragonese said.
August 6, 2012 – A singular piece of landscape architecture outside a state building in Trenton, New Jersey, has been scheduled for demolition, drawing protests from the landscape industry and art lovers who wish to save it.
Green Acres is a 77– by 85-foot 'site specific' granite-and-garden structure in the courtyard of New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Produced by famed public sculpture designer and landscape artist Athena Tacha in the mid-1980s, the publicly funded structure was commissioned in 1985 to honor the state's pioneering land conservation program.
The piece consists of 46 green granite slabs with sandblasted photographs of state landscapes, plants and endangered species. Stepped seating and crescent shaped planters enclose the design, providing a place for workers in the area to sit and relax.
The two-year, $417,000 project has been hailed as a historic work and one of the most interesting and complex of Tacha's 40 public ''land art'' projects. But the DEP has decided – at a projected cost of $1 million – that the piece should be demolished, and a rain garden will be installed in the area instead.
Richard Bartolone, president of the American Society of Landscape Architects' New Jersey chapter, spoke out against the demolition, calling Green Acres one of the few ''significant, socially relevant art works in New Jersey, let alone in our state capital.''
Tacha is free to save the piece, according to state officials, if she pays to have it moved elsewhere.
According to the DEP, the whole courtyard needs to be replaced due to structural and safety issues. The demolition probably won't be done until late this year or spring 2013 because the new courtyard is still in design.
The agency claims that the whole plaza is becoming a hazard due to lack of repair, and the building's evacuation plan routes workers through the area, increasing the danger. Tacha found out about both the hazard claims and the demolition in a letter from the state in April, and she says the DEP has offered no alternatives or analysis on the cost of renovations, despite increasing protests and the $1 million price tag for the new courtyard. The DEP itself is responsible for Green Acres' upkeep – it was last repaired in 2005, for a total of $30,000.
The new plans call for a more pervious plaza with more plants, and will include a system to capture runoff and handle water needs for a more self-sustaining, low-maintenance rain garden. The DEP encourages similar stormwater systems and rain gardens in towns throughout New Jersey and wants to add its own to their building's plaza.
''This is not a commentary on her or the art work,'' DEP spokesman Larry Hajna said. ''[The rain garden] is a greener type of approach to landscaping than was known back in the 1970s and 80s. We will green up the space and send a message. We're practicing what we preach.''
Petitions and editorials are circulating throughout the state in an effort to save the site from demolition – if the project is removed, it will join six other ''public art'' constructions Tacha designed on the scrap heap. Now that the DEP's July 31 deadline for Tacha to remove the piece has come and gone, the time for Trenton's Green Acres is running out.