Big Button - CODAworx

Big Button

Submitted by Local Projects

Client: Garment District Alliance

Location: New York City, NY, United States

Completion date: 2023

Artwork budget: $1,300,000

Project Team

Lead Designer

Local Projects

Local Projects

Lead Fabricator




The Garment District Alliance, a not-for-profit corporation established in 1993 to improve the quality of life and economic vitality of Manhattan’s Garment District, asked us to consider the future of the district’s beloved landmark, an oversize sculpture known as the Big Button.

We decided to honor the original design with a more dynamic approach that removed the sculpture’s static relationship with the outdated kiosk.

Our team created a new sculpture, Big Button, a colorful, freestanding artwork that playfully reflects the creativity, history, and vitality of the district. Our approach creates the illusion of the overscaled button upheld by a single stainless-steel thread that supports a 32-foot stainless-steel needle, and a button that has been recast and changed from a dark black to a bright yellow.

The color change is an homage to the color scheme of the early 1900s transit system that carried many Garment District workers from their homes in Brooklyn and Queens. It also evokes the iconic yellow taxi cabs that reflect the hustle and bustle of city streets, pops against the gray, monochromatic surroundings, and stands out on the dreariest of days.


Replacing a button on a jacket is tough enough - how do you replace a button that’s 15 feet wide and hanging over a busy corner in New York City? More than 20 years old and resting on a 70’s-era information kiosk that was on the verge of collapse, the original sculpture was in danger of disappearing.

When GDA was formed in 1993, it was given permission by the adjacent property owner and the City of New York to renovate the structure and rededicate its use as a business-to-business fashion industry resource center and information kiosk. The renovation, which concluded in 1996, included the addition of a distinctive rooftop button and needle sculpture designed by James Biber, then of Pentagram Architects, which became an instant icon for the neighborhood.

We were asked to revisit this icon and build on the sense of heritage and pride in the Garment District, while creating a more dynamic sculpture that could better accommodate this highly trafficked corner.

The new sculpture creates a dynamic experience for visitors, while improving sight lines and enhancing pedestrian flow for the roughly one million pedestrians who pass the corner of Seventh Avenue and 39th Street every day.


Interviews and workshops were held with stakeholders, including GDA staff and Board members, business owners, fashion industry professionals, landlords, city officials, and representatives from Manhattan Community Board 5. Through this process, it was concluded that, while a physical kiosk was no longer necessary due to the growing ubiquity of personal mobile devices, this iconic sculpture is a beloved neighborhood icon that should remain and be enhanced as a pop art sculpture and placemaking amenity.

The Garment District Alliance intended to reuse the original sculpture, but structural damage made it necessary to fabricate a new ‘Big Button’, which created opportunities to explore a contemporary interpretation of the beloved classic, using new materials and colors.The new permanent sculpture is 28 feet tall with a 15-foot diameter aluminum button, and 32-foot brushed stainless-steel needle, creating a dynamic experience for pedestrians while improving sight lines and enhancing pedestrian flow.

After a five-year process – including design, engineering, fabrication and coordination with multiple city agencies and stakeholders – UAP studios and Local Projects are thrilled to have been instrumental in reimagining and bringing to life this iconic artwork.

Additional Information

Structural damage made it impossible to re-use the original button, but the need to refabricate opened up opportunities for new materials and finishes. The new sculpture maintains the scale of the original, with a 15-foot diameter button, now made of aluminum and given a bright yellow automotive finish, like the iconic color of an NYC taxi cab. The button is pierced by a 32-foot brushed stainless-steel needle and is supported by a looping steel thread with a mirror polished finish. Reaching a height of 28 feet, the new sculpture creates a dynamic experience for pedestrians who walk under or around it, while improving sight lines and enhancing pedestrian flow on Seventh Avenue.