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Alamo 1967

by Tony Rosenthal, 1914-2009

The Alamo, commonly known as the Astor Place Cube, was meant to temporarily reside between Lafayette and Cooper Square for 6 months in 1967. East Village residents successfully petitioned to have the cube installed permanently, becoming a neighborhood trademark. Its location was ideal to convey Rosenthal’s simple motive: he wanted the sculpture to interact with the population, its environment complementing its design to easily be spun on its vertical axis by two people. Rosenthal’s wife suggested the name “Alamo” because of its perceived impenetrability, a quality reminiscent of the famed Alamo Mission in Texas.

Rosenthal designed the 8-foot black cube from one ton of Cor-Ten steel, a type of steel that resists corrosion by forming a protective layer on its surface to prevent weather damage. The Parks Department declared the sculpture a safety hazard in 2005 because a bolt went missing, the cube tilting to one side when spun; they removed the cube for 6 months to repair and restore the cube to its original quality.

The cube has not only become a very popular meeting place in the East Village due to its centrality, but also came to represent the “timelessness” of the city. Astor Place has undergone a dramatic transformation from bohemian to commercial; Starbucks, Kmart, and modern office buildings have arose nearby, but the cube remains the same. For some, it represented an escape from the constant chance, something which stood unaffected by the commotion of the city.

Interestingly, the sculpture is not unique; Rosenthal constructed a series of over 20 cube and square sculptures that appear very similar, but the Alamo remains his most popular to date.


1967 Alamo constructed
2005 Removed by the Parks Department for 8 months for maintenance

Reference Links

article Tony Rosenthal, Sculptor of Public Art, Dies at 94
internal Alamo (sculpture) - Wiki
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