Left: Lincoln Center’s Josie Robertson Plaza before Mimi Lien’s transformation (photo by Iñaki Vinaixa); Right: “The GREEN,” Lien’s grass-covered installation (rendering by Timothy Leung; all images courtesy Lincoln Center)

After more than a year of shuttered theaters, empty stages, and sleepy cinemas, New York City’s performing arts scene is cautiously, but surely, reawakening: some live music and theater venues are reopening at very limited capacity, and Broadway and off-Broadway plays are slated to return in the fall. To celebrate the gradual raising of the curtains (and the return of warmer weather), the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan is turning its sprawling outdoor entrance into a public space for gathering, frolicking, or simply idling.

Beginning May 10, the Josie Robertson Plaza — the 14,000-square-feet concrete expanse surrounding the Lincoln Center’s gateway at Columbus Avenue and West 64th Street — will be transformed into a lush, green lawn by acclaimed set designer Mimi Lien.

Lien’s idea for the intervention came as she envisioned how to make the plaza “a more inclusive and inviting environment.” She decided to blanket its cold, decidedly unsittable floor in SYNLawn®, a recyclable, bio-based synthetic turf often used in landscaping, play areas, and golf greens.

“I immediately thought that by changing the ground surface from hard paving stones with no seating to a material like grass, suddenly anyone would be able to sit anywhere,” Lien said in a statement.

Rendering of “The GREEN” at Lincoln Center by Timothy Leung.

When the project closes, SYNLawn New York will upcycle the turf, using it to cover playgrounds in underserved neighborhoods in upstate New York.

“The GREEN,” as the project is known, is part of Lincoln Center’s Restart Stages, a program of outdoor, free and low-cost events intended to reignite the city’s arts sector — including dance workshops by New York City Ballet and performances by the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute and the Korean Cultural Center New York, among others.

Mimi Lien photographed by Emma Pratte. (© Emma Pratte)

Lien has designed sets and environments for theater, dance, and opera, working on Broadway as well as in more experimental spaces like the Kitchen in New York. In 2015, she became the first stage designer ever to win the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Grant.

She hopes the new installation at Lincoln Center will feel “like an embrace and an expanse at the same time.”

“In the past, Josie Robertson Plaza has been a space that you walk through in order to see a performance, to get to the Library, or even to admire the fountain for a bit, but I dreamt of making it a space of inhabitation, of pleasure, and of rest,” Lien said.

“I wanted to make a place where you could lie on a grassy slope and read a book all afternoon.  Get a coffee and sit in the sun. Bring your babies and frolic in the grass.  Have a picnic lunch with co-workers,” she added.

The GREEN” will be open May 10 through September 2021 from 9am to midnight. Several safety protocols will be in place, including required face coverings, social distancing, and regular cleanings.

Valentina Di Liscia is the News Editor at Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...