A Brick 'Lattice' on the Roof

John Hill
4. September 2020
All photographs by John Hill/World-Architects

Lattice Detour, Mexican artist Héctor Zamora's site-specific installation for the Cantor Roof Garden at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a porous brick wall that clearly confronts political issues while also recalling a controversial icon of public art.

Zamora's Lattice Detour was partially installed in March, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed its completion until late August, when The Met reopened alongside many of the city's other museums. Although President Trump's (mis)handling of the pandemic, then and since, is overshadowing his controversial border wall — as are the Black Lives Matter protests and the 2020 election — the US/Mexico border wall is still a heated issue.

Certainly Zamora's 100-foot-long, 11-foot-tall wall made from hollow terra cotta bricks references the president's new border wall, whose steel slats allow views across the barrier. But the curving installation also recalls Richard Serra's infamous Tilted Arc, which was installed by the federal government on Jacob Javits Plaza in Lower Manhattan in 1981 but was removed in 1989 after a federal judge who didn't like the artwork successfully boycotted for its removal. 

Just as the 120-foot-long Tilted Arc was unloved by the judge and other detractors, Trump's border wall is hated by many people, but for quite different reasons. Zamora's conceptual blending of the border wall and Serra's weathered steel sculpture results in a thing of beauty, something that should be seen, if possible, before it's removed after December 7, 2020.

Lattice Detour sits in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden in the southwest corner of The Met, with views of Central Park and the towers along Billionaire's Row dominating.
Most views of Lattice Detour give the impression of a solid wall ...
... but moving slightly reveals views through the wall when looked at straight on.
The repetition of the bricks is quite beautiful, as is the bricks themselves, whose hollow, reinforced structure creates smaller voids surrounding the larger voids.
Those smaller voids help lend the artwork its lattice moniker and also situate the installation in the lineage of Donald Judd and other minimalist artists.
From certain vantages, the voids present a filtered view of the surroundings, in this case the early 20th-century buildings along Central Park West.
Other vantages give the impression of a wall that is purely architectural.
Art, or masonry?
The skinny skyscrapers south of Central Park grab yearn for attention by being visible above the wall.
A small terrace adjacent to the installation allows for unimpeded views the slender supertall towers that now punctuate the Midtown skyline.

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