How sweet it is! Original Domino Sugar factory sign transformed into hanging sculpture

domino sugar sign
A new sculpture made from the old Domino Sugar sign hands in the lobby of the redesigned refinery building.
Photo courtesy of Etienne Frossard/Two Trees Management

How sweet it is!

A new art installation in the lobby of the Refinery at Domino pays tribute to the historic 11-acre Domino Sugar factory site and breathes new life into an old, iconic sign.

domino sugar refinery sign
The repurposed sign welcomes guests into the lobby of the Refinery at Domino. Photo courtesy of Etienne Frossard/Two Trees Management

Two Trees Management, the Brooklyn-based real estate firm behind the site’s redevelopment, commissioned visual artist Virginia Overton to transform the famous yellow Domino Sugar sign into an 11-by-36-foot hanging sculpture. The piece now welcomes guests to the Refinery — the site’s sprawling office space.

Overton, known for re-contextualizing common materials, said working with old sign was a dream.

“The opportunity to work with salvaged material from the Refinery has been a boon,” she said in a statement. “Reusing existing materials as a way to extend the life of objects is integral to my practice. It was a privilege to be able to work with a piece of history from America’s industrial heyday and reimagine this historic artifact as a sculpture that honors the sign’s storied past while embracing its possibilities for the future.”

sign letters in artists studio
Pieces of the sign in Overton’s studio. Photo courtesy of Virgina Overton/Two Trees Management

The Domino Sugar Factory, once the world’s largest sugar manufacturer, reopened last September as a 15-story, 460,000-square-foot office building. It was originally constructed on the Williamsburg waterfront in the mid-19th century and became known for its enormous sign, visible from across the river, which was installed in 1969 and designed and manufactured by New York’s Artkraft Strauss Sign Corporation.

In 2014, the original sign was dismantled to make way for the building’s redevelopment. Today, the building features an LED replica of the original sign atop the structure — while its original display remains in the lobby, preserved but reimagined by Overton.

old domino sugar factory
A snap of the original refinery and sign. Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Public Library/Two Trees Management

“The Refinery at Domino and its bright Domino Sugar lettering is a New York City icon that has remained a symbol of Brooklyn’s waterfront and industrial heritage for over 150 years. It was incredibly important for us to ensure this lobby exhibition serves as an homage to its roots, and Virginia’s work does a beautiful job at honoring the life cycle of this artifact,” said Kate Gavriel, director of cultural affairs at Two Trees Management, in a statement. “We are honored to have worked with such an incredible artist whose artwork has brought our key values of reinvention and adaptive reuse to life.” 

The Domino Sugar Factory closed in 2004, paving the way for one of the borough’s largest redevelopment plans.

redesigned domino sugar refinery and sign
The newly-reopened refinery feature a new LED replica of the original sign. Photo courtesy of Max Touhey/Two Trees Management

Progress on the project includes the opening of Domino Park in 2018, which features design elements paying homage to the site’s industrial past, while the completion of the first residential towers — One South First and 325 Kent — in 2021 marked significant steps in the ongoing development.

When the Domino mega-project is complete, it will have almost 3,000 apartments, including a set number of affordable units, as well as 600,000 square feet of commercial office space and 200,000 square feet of retail. Just last month, luxury condominium sales began at One Domino Square, the site’s third high-rise residential building.