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The Earth Room

Art & Design

A long-term installation in Soho hides 3,600 square feet of dirt in a second-floor storefront

Anyone in NYC can agree it’s not nearly warm enough yet to be outside, but visitors anxious for a nature fix can get theirs inside at the little-known Earth Room. The long-term installation by Walter de Maria has been open to the public since 1980, hosted by Dia Art Foundation, is tucked into a second-floor storefront on Wooster Street in Soho, comprising 3,600 square feet of, well, dirt.

To zen out among the 22 inches of loamy topsoil ring the ground floor bell (the facade is unmarked) at 141 Wooster, and head up to the second floor. De Maria moved to New York in the 1960s, opening a gallery on Great Jones Street with Robert Whitman, while showing his work at museums across Germany and the Netherlands throughout the decade. The artist, who died in the summer of 2013, maintains an enduring legacy to remind viewers of what Soho once was, with the continued presence of this quiet work.