But years outdoors exposed to the elements and endless twirling by tourists took its toll. As part of a broader $16 million revamp of Astor Place, the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) removed the work in November of 2014 and sent it to be restored in New Jersey. “A challenge that we had with the cube was having to haul the thing out of Manhattan,” said Chris Onyechi, the DDC engineer in charge. Moving a 15-foot-cubed Cor-Ten steel piece out of the city isn’t easy. But after braving New York traffic, the work arrived at the conservator, Aegis Restauro, LLC, covered in grime, graffiti, and even food stains. As repairs on the cube commenced, Onyechi said that people kept going to Astor Place looking for it. “After we took out the cube, when we were doing work, we had tourists come stand there. And they have a picture of the cube and they would say ‘there’s no cube here!’” They were confused,” he said, laughing.
Unsurprisingly, the conservator found scratches in the metal and paint, which was also flaking. In indented areas, water had accumulated and caused damage. Perhaps the most troubling consequence of all the wear and tear was that “at a point, it became difficult for the cube to rotate,” noted Onyechi. To restore the piece and clear the rust, the exterior coating of the work was taken off and the interior metal surface was leveled, with scratches filled in by hand. Some pieces of the interior that couldn’t be salvaged were replaced, and the internal structure was shored up. The conservator used lasers to remove interior corrosion and rusting. To cap it all off, the whole work got a fresh coat of paint—as did the accompanying bronze information plaques. The work also got a new base, which should make it much easier to spin around. The $180,000 repair and reconstruction marks the second time the cube was taken for repairs, the first occurring in 2004.