When Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron unveiled 56 Leonard in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood in 2017, it was quickly dubbed the ‘Jenga Building’ for its likeness to the childhood game, with each of its 60 stories stacked ever-more precariously on top of the next.
In 2023, another familiar likeness appeared, seemingly pinched below the building’s first cantilevered floor: a globular bead of shiny silver, resembling a gargantuan bean or enormous droplet of water. If it looks familiar, that is because it is the work of famed artist Anish Kapoor, the man behind that other famous bean: Chicago’s landmark Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park.
The sculpture, colloquially known as the ‘mini-Bean,’ is a unique collaboration between artist and architect: It appears to both prop the building up and be squashed by it simultaneously.
Kapoor’s first permanent public work in New York City, the sculpture is monumental in both size and importance. Weighing 40 tons, the sculpture measures 48 feet in length and is 19 feet tall. However, despite its inflated size, there is a lightness to the playful piece, with its organic shape and highly reflective surface—a hallmark of Kapoor’s work.
“The city can feel frenetic, fast and hard, imposing architecture, concrete, noise,” Kapoor shares, “My work proposes a form that though made of stainless steel is also soft and ephemeral. Mirrors cause us to pause, to be absorbed and pulled in a way that disrupts time, slows it down perhaps; it’s a material that creates a new kind of immaterial space.”