In the 1970s, Michael Friedlander was an architecture student at the Cooper Union, his head bursting with bodacious, unconventional designs. On graduating, he settled for a stopgap job with the City of New York, which had him working on prosaic assignments like drafting blueprints to renovate locker rooms for sanitation workers.
It proved to be far from a stopgap.
Over 40 years with the Sanitation Department he became an in-house architect, a project manager and finally the director of special projects — all the while never giving up on a singular crusade: to transform civic architecture, from being exercises in intrusive mediocrity, as the public tended to see such buildings, to being something worthy of approval, and even veneration.
His vision was epitomized in the form of a sculptural Sanitation Department salt-storage shed on the western fringe of TriBeCa in Manhattan. Glacially blue, cubelike, crystalline and rising 69 feet, it is called the Spring Street Salt Shed and appears, with a little imagination, to form, out of concrete, a coarse grain of salt.
Mr. Friedlander described this $20 million structure as a whimsical “architectural folly” that can hold 5,000 tons of salt.
in 2015: “Opponents of the sanitation project in Hudson Square may not have gotten exactly what they wanted. But they were fortunate. They got something better.”
He added, “I can’t think of a better public sculpture to land in New York than the shed.”
replied, “There are people inside.”