The Private Art of the Public Space Architect of Hudson Yards


The landscape architect Thomas Woltz doesn’t usually work at home. But one day, he was sketching at the breakfast table in his West Village sanctuary when he had an “aha!” moment for his design of the Public Square and gardens of Hudson Yards, the enormous new development on the West Side of Manhattan.

“It was one of those desperate moments of asking, ‘What is the essence of this project?’” said Mr. Woltz, 51, nattily dressed, as usual, in a suit. That was where he came up with the idea of the pattern underlying the project.

“The plan is a series of ellipses” that converge under the sculpture known as the “Vessel,” and “each radiates out to the different towers and into the retail. Wherever you arrive to Hudson Yards, you arrive to one of these soft embraces of the landscape,” he said.

Such descriptions are not unusual for Mr. Woltz, the principal of the firm Nelson Byrd Woltz, and he approaches art-collecting in the same thoughtful way. Though he divides his time between New York and Charlottesville, Va., he has devoted considerable attention to making his apartment here a home.

I’m eclectic,” he said of his collecting. “I just follow my heart. I’m sure that my sensibilities are the result of some things that are innate but others that reflect my training.”

Mr. Woltz, who has master’s degrees in architecture and landscape architecture, also practiced his trade in Venice for five years. There’s a classical vibe to some of his trove, like the French copy of a Roman bust of Marcus Aurelius and the framed grouping of plaster imprints of ancient Roman seals.

But it’s balanced by pure abstraction, as seen in the small piece of twisted rebar that was found in a field and given to Mr. Woltz as a gift. He gave it pride of place on his mantel.

Earlier this month, on the day that his Hudson Yards designs made their public debut, Mr. Woltz took an hour out to discuss his pursuit of art. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.



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