After the Rain: Sights and Sounds from Madison Square Park

The rain this week, ranging from gentle sprinkles to heavier downpours with lightning and thunder, has left the city's parks bathed in an intense verdant green. The lush appearance of such a place like old Madison Square, a result of the energetic combination of nitrogen and oxygen in the stormy atmosphere, evokes images of a primordial Mannahatta, or in the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby, the "fresh, green breast of the new world." Back in the day - let's say 1600 - the oasis currently known as Madison Square Park would have been a swampy forest filled with red maple trees and woodland ferns and a home to hawks, crows, chickadees, ducks, turtles, salamanders, and frogs.

Madison Square Park lawn, after the recent days of rain

The cyclical return of the park to its late spring verdancy also finds parallel with its fashionability. After opening as a public space in 1847, Madison Square became the epicenter of Gilded Age New York. This desirable residential area for high society soon spawned the nearby Ladies' Mile shopping district, palaces of entertainment (like the old Garden), and many handsome towers of business. The Flatiron Building, constructed in 1902, still upstages everyone else, demanding attention from architecture paparazzi. Today, Madison Square has become the fashionable location for various high tech startups of the information age.

The Flatiron Building, as seen from Madison Square Park.

The park's current art installation, Pet Sounds by California artist Charles Long, while looking very much like a children's fanciful playground, evokes the sights and sounds of an imagined primordial past. Its curving candy-colored rails spill into bulbous, amorphous forms, and when touched at various points, emit metallic squeals, cries, and rhythms. In this art playground, it is possible to play the sculptures like instruments. Multiple petting gestures on the creatures can produce a soft jazz-rock fusion. Just don't climb on them, as the signs warn.

Pet Sounds by Charles Long, a project of Mad. Sq. Art, continues through September 9, 2012.

Pet Sounds by Charles Long

Pet Sounds by Charles Long, with another famous NYC landmark in distance

With each passing year, Shake Shack looks like an organic natural feature of the park. For more food options, explore the pop-up tented food court, EAT at Madison Square Park. From this vantage point, the Flatiron looks seasonably fashionable, flanked by floral Marimekko red and white umbrellas. So stylish.

Madison Square EATS. The Flatiron Building with Marimekko umbrellas.

• Read about other nearby buildings at the post, In Focus: The Metropolitan Life Tower, and learn about plans for the tower.

• By coincidence, the first trailer for the highly anticipated Baz Luhrmann film version of The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was released today. See it here at IMDb.

Madison Square Park Conservancy

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from the afternoon of May 22, 2012.

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