Metropolis: BKSK Architect’s Tammany Hall Restoration Draws on Lenape Symbolism

Metropolis: BKSK Architect’s Tammany Hall Restoration Draws on Lenape Symbolism

Metropolis Decmber 2, 2020

BKSK Architect’s Tammany Hall Restoration Draws on Lenape Symbolism

The Manhattan-based architecture firm inserted a glass dome in the likeness of a tortoise on top of the Union Square building.

Sometime in the 17th century, a Dutchman asked a Lenape patriarch about the origins of his people. The Lenape first drew a circle on the floor, then added four paws, a head, and a tail. “This,” he said, “is a tortoise lying in the water around it.” One day, the tortoise rose from the water to form what would become Turtle Island, or what we now call North America.

Today, a glass dome in the likeness of a turtle rises from the roof of Manhattan’s Tammany Hall Building—the former headquarters of a political group long associated with corruption and graft. By restoring the building and crowning it with Lenape symbolism, local firm BKSK Architects is telling the full story behind Tammany Hall, whose namesake is actually Lenape Chief Tamanend, a pacifist who was instrumental in the establishment of peaceful relations between the Native American tribes and 17th-century European settlers.

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