Suburban folk mark the change of seasons with spring peepers, the sound of leaf blowers, and first frosts. City dwellers rely on other environmental cures: pumpkin spice lattes, heat season, and festive public art installations. Last week, the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District (BID) and the Van Alen Institute welcomed crowds to SOFTlab's Nova, the 2015 winner of the Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition. Perched inside North Flatiron Public Plaza at the intersection of Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street, Nova invites passersby into a kaleidoscopic interior to view area landmarks—the Empire State Building, the Flatiron, and the Met Life Tower—on its mirrored surfaces and through its many exposures. When activated by sound, LEDs pulse to intensify the psychedelic visuals. The design has definite antecedents in SOFTlab's pavilion at this year's SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas. Here too, the firm partnered with 3M to create a multicolored neon canopy that showcased the company's products. Van Alen and the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership invited New York–based architecture and design firms Bureau V, Method Design, Sage and Coombe, Studio KCA, and SOFTlab to submit proposals for the competition. Competition jurors included Van Alen and the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership directors and board members; Michael Bierut, partner, Pentagram; Aleksey Lukyanov, partner, Situ Studio; and Wendy Feuer, NYC Department of Transportation's Assistant Commissioner of Design + Art + Wayfinding. "The installation illustrates how interactive public art can change the perception of an environment thereby allowing people to experience it in a new way," Feuer explained in a statement. "We count on organizations like the Partnership to commission these exciting installations making NYC streets ever more inviting." This is the holiday design competition's second year. Last year, INABA won the competition with their installation, New York Light. See the gallery below for more images of Nova.
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The Times Square Alliance takes "I ♥ New York" quite literally. For the past eight years, the nonprofit organization has invited architecture and design firms to create public art that responds to a Valentine's Day theme. This year the Times Square Alliance partnered with the Center for Architecture to administer the competition. Collective-LOK stole the hearts of jurists to win the 2016 Times Square Valentine Heart Design competition. Collective-LOK's submission, Heart of Hearts, is a circle of nine, ten-foot-tall golden hearts that reflect the lights and the goings-on of Times Square. The installation will be on view at Father Duffy Square, between 46th and 47th Streets, from February 29 through March 6. The sculpture is interactive, balancing private and public space in one of the world's busiest pedestrian plazas. Within each heart is a "kissing booth" that encourages intimate but performative affection. “[We] are thrilled to create the Heart of Hearts for Valentine’s Day, an engagement ring for our love affair with the spectacle of Times Square," Collective-LOK declared in a statement. "It’s truly a special opportunity to provide a space for intimacy and performance in the heart of the city, one we hope visitors will love.” The featured rendering certainly captures the ballet of a good city sidewalk—a llama stares contentedly at its reflection, a lonely man flouting blue laws drinks champagne from the bottle, while the Naked Cowboy jams on, stage left. Why is that man staring into that woman's white skirt? It's all part of the spectacle, apparently. For more heartwarming displays of public art, see AN's coverage of past competition winners here.
On Sunday, September 13th, New York City got its first new subway station in 25 years. Located at 34th Street and Eleventh Avenue, the 34th St-Hudson Yards station extended the 7 train one and a half miles to serve Manhattan's Far West Side. Dattner Architects designed the 364,000 square foot, $2.4 billion station. The new station is ten stories underground, and features the subway system's first inclined elevator. Below the canopied main entrance, designed by Toshiko Mori Architect, a multicolored mosiac mural by artist Xenobia Bailey greets passengers. MVVA designed the park surrounding the main entrance. See the gallery below for images of the new station.
Manhattan-based artist Steve Powers is offering a non-caffeinated pick-me-up for weary NYC commuters with his pop art–style street signs mounted on light poles around the city. Bearing food-for-thought slogans with themes of life and love against a pictograph or logotype, such as "I get lost to get found" stamped on a briefcase, the signs are designed to inspire smiles and/or introspection. Titled ICY Signs, the temporary public art signage project takes after traditional handpainted signs. Powers uses the common sign as a tool to overstate the importance of signs to guide us through a confusing world. "It’s drag yourself to work day," reads one. Another depicts a lighthouse stamped with the word "You" beaming light onto the word "Me." The artist envisioned the signage as an emotional wayfinding system which encourages pedestrians to not only navigate the city streets but explore their own inner alleys and avenues. The 30 signs are being exhibited at four of the intersections earmarked as Summer Streets – part of an annual celebration of car-free NYC streets in which seven miles of streets are reappropriated by pedestrians and cyclists for three consecutive Saturdays in August. Powers’ artwork will go up at four Summer Streets rest stops: Midtown at 25th Street and Park Avenue; Astor Place at Astor Place and Lafayette Street; SoHo at Spring Street and Lafayette Street, with the majority to be displayed at Foley Square at Duane Street and Center Street.
The 18 winning projects shortlisted in the Field Constructs Design Competition flag a range of pressing socio-environmental issues through whimsical takes on interactive public art. The exhibits will occupy an old landfill and brownfield in Austin within the Circle Acres nature reserve, turning the site into a bizarre outdoor museum teeming with site-responsive sculptures and unforeseen creatures. Here, we take a look at some of the winning proposals to be displayed from November 14–22. Cloudfill by Blake Smith, John Cunningham, Seth Brunner (New York) This three-part installation is made of plastic bottles stuffed in bags. Each piece is specifically designed for either forestland, wetlands, or dry land, and references a different environmental issue, from deforestation to strip mining and microplastics in the ocean, to advance the educational mission of the Ecology Action of Texas. A floating bridge is planned for the park’s wetland area, which used to be a quarry.
Commpost by Daniel Gillen, Colby Suter, Gustav Fagerstrom (Beijing)These disorienting camel humps rising in the middle of a field are an educational commentary about composting. Visitors scan QR codes or use the on-site WiFi to learn about ecological food disposal. Like a LEGO set, it comes with a step-by-step assembly manual and can still function with minimal component parts. Visitors can throw scraps and water into pits within the sculpture and watch them turn into dirt. Dis-Figure by Aptum Architecture (Syracuse) This vaguely equestrian sculpture looms out of the swampy shadows like a guardian angel. Built from a wood frame covered in latex, the sculpture reportedly “glows” and changes appearance throughout the day. “Through the intertwining of skeleton and mutilated skin, a digitally enhanced structure and its biodegradable latex ornamentation disfigures the form and, in turn, alludes to a new reading of ‘form meets nature’ as the grotesque, the uncanny, and the unexpected,” said the architects. Las Piñatas by Goujon Design (Austin) This exhibition bespeaks the proverbial tension between development and preservation. The giant piñatas pay homage to a local family-owned piñata store that was razed in early 2015 by a pair of transplanted property developers in the city’s rapidly gentrifying East Austin neighborhoods. “The low-income and predominantly Hispanic neighborhood of Montopolis”—where the park is located—“will inevitably become another friction point between the development of a ‘new’ Austin and the preservation of ‘old’ Austin,” according to Field Constructs. Meat Church Field Kitchen by Jordan Bartelt, Scrap Marshall (Los Angeles) The design for this short-lived smokehouse riffs on a lone church standing in the Texas barrens, where seasoned grill-masters prepare juicy meats to be consumed with others like at a church picnic. However, folks of all faiths are welcome at this non-denominational gathering.
Construction gone awry: crane driver accidentally extricates a house and causes car pile-up—or that's what the artists will have you believe
A house “mistakenly” unearthed from the soil by an inebriated crane driver hangs mournfully over a construction site in Karlsruhe, southern Germany. Torn roots sprout from its base to remind onlookers that it was once a happy home before its violent extrication. The hyper-real sculpture by Argentinian artist Leandro Erlich is suspended above a market square, where construction for a new tram network is in full swing. While it might appear to critique the built environment and associated human errors, the model house is intended to challenge resident’s perception of construction as an eyesore and something “divorced from the natural world.” "Pulled up by the Roots highlights this tension,” Ehrlich told Dezeen. “As living beings on an ever-changing planet, we can never be apart from the organic world; the architecture that we create is part and parcel of our environment." Inspired by the historical architecture of Friedrich Weinbrenner, Erlich’s reality-bending art addresses global themes of uprooting and migration, but it’s also there to remind people that “underneath the tons of metal and concrete of our cities, a vital organic presence remains.” Therefore, the roots are a sign of life and not destructive intervention. Pulled up by the Roots is part of The City is a Star, a series of realistic sculptures installed across Karlsruhe to commemorate its anniversary. Another spectacle to behold is a comically bent truck by Austrian artist Erwin Wurm, whose rear wheels seem to be kicking off from the building behind it like a bucking bull. The artwork truck was recently slapped with a parking ticket, according to CityLab, but a report from KA News insists that the gag ticket was issued by a rare breed of city officials possessing a sense of humor, after the Center for Arts and Media (ZKM) publicly complained about having to pay the charges. The sculptures will be on view until September 27, 2015. Another satirical outlook on human foul-ups is a topsy-turvy pile-up of VW Beetles by Hans Hollein, titled Car Building. Were they also victim to the drunken crane driver’s clumsy hand?
Two Belgian architects create a steel-frame maze which viewers can look down on from an old mine shaft
Belgian architects Pieterjan Gijs and Arnout Van Vaerenbergh created a sculptural-spatial intervention on the grounds of the Genk’s C-mine Arts Center in Belgium, where viewers must navigate a geometric conundrum. Through unique compositions of wall, void, and cut-outs, the two architects, collectively known as Gijs Van Vaerenbergh, explore fundamental architecture typologies. Labyrint comprises 5mm (0.196 inches) steel plates that have been geometrically hollowed to create a collection of continuous, never-ending frames. Arches, concaves, and hard angles form an otherworld, where viewers can get their bearings by looking through cut-outs that repeat themselves from one side of the structure to the other, revealing daylight on the other side. These dimensions were generated using Boolean transformations, a mathematical principle based on a system of logical thought. “Through a monotonous succession of high corridors, the viewer is confronted with openings that reveal what is on the other side of the walls,” say the architects. Lording over the structure is one of the old mine shafts of C-mine, a former coal mining site. Visitors can ascend the shaft, which peaks at 123 feet, and look down onto the maze and those exploring it – a vantage point traditionally reserved for the creators of mythical labyrinths. “In any other context, the installation wouldn’t have worked,” said Gijs Van Vaerenbergh. “The central square at c-mine is a completely different environment. “Here, we were confronted with an artificial, highly designed, large-scaled context that wasn’t very welcoming to make a similar installation. We therefore chose to build an installation that was directed inwards and dealt more strongly with space and one’s relation to it. We did so by looking for inspiration in a primal architectural typology: the labyrinth. In a way, this is an essential form of architecture, which is only composed of walls."
An expanse of sustainable timber just clinched the Chicago Architecture Biennial's Lakefront Kiosk Competition
Officials with the Chicago Architecture Biennial today announced the winners of the Lakefront Kiosk Competition, choosing a team whose stated goal was “to build the largest flat wood roof possible.” Dubbed Chicago Horizon, the design is by Rhode Island–based Ultramoderne, a collaboration between architects Yasmin Vobis and Aaron Forrest and structural engineer Brett Schneider. Their pavilion uses cross-laminated timber, a new lumber product that some structural engineers call carbon-negative for its ability to displace virgin steel and concrete while sequester the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide during its growth. Ultramoderne's long, flat roof “aims to provide an excess of public space for the Architecture Biennial and Chicago beach-goers,” according to the project description. Their design rose above 420 other entries from designers in more than 40 countries, and will receive a $10,000 honorarium, as well as a $75,000 production budget to realize the kiosk. BP is providing those funds as part of a $2.5 million grant to the inaugural biennial. Three teams—Lekker Architects, Tru Architekten, and Kelley, Palider, Paros—were finalists for the top honor. Fala Atelier, Kollectiv Atelier, and Guillame Mazars all received an honorable mention. The Biennial has posted a selection of submissions to the Lakefront Kiosk Competition on its Pinterest page.
After the biennial, Chicago Horizon "will find a permanent home in Spring 2016, operating as a food and beverage vendor, as well as a new public space along the lakefront.During the Biennial three other kiosks will be installed along the lakefront. Details on those are due to be announced next week, but here are the preliminary project descriptions:
The Cent Pavilion, designed by Pezo von Ellrichshausen in collaboration with the Illinois Institute of Technology, is a forty-foot tower meant to convey silent and convoluted simplicity. Rock, the kiosk designed by Kunlé Adeyemi in collaboration with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago is a pop-up pavilion a public sculpture composed from the raw and historic limestone blocks that once protected the city’s shoreline. Summer Vault, designed by Paul Andersen of Independent Architecture and Paul Preissner of Paul Preissner Architects, in collaboration with the University of Illinois, Chicago, is a lakefront kiosk that consists of basic geometric shapes combined to create a freestanding hangout within the park.
A new bus stop in Montreal will include a 64-foot-tall, Ferris Wheel–shaped art installation that cost the city a cool $840,000. For blatantly obvious reasons, many Quebecois aren’t thrilled about that—in no small part because the expensive art project is in a part of Montreal that is struggling to combat poverty. CityLab reported that the sculpture, called La Vélocité des lieux (the Velocity of Places), is part of a larger reconstruction of an intersection that is set to include a park, bus rapid transit, and new housing. The wheel was designed by BGL, a Quebec City–based art collective, that was dubbed “Canada's Art-World Class Clowns” by Vox, and more recently represented Canada at the Venice Biennale. The trio of so-called class clowns won a competition to design the art piece for the intersection in 2012 When the wheel is completed in September, bus frames will zip around its circular frame as a gesture toward the bus stop below. In a statement, BGL said the installation embodies “dizziness, playfulness, [and] community spirit.” But right now at least, the community is pretty mixed on the project. In an interview with Montreal CTV, one local resident praised the wheel saying that it would help put Montreal-Nord on the map, but many others have said the money spent on the wheel should have gone toward schools, roads, and social programs. Chantal Rossi, a city councilor for Montrea-Nord, defended the controversial project, saying that the area deserves public art just like anywhere else in the city. “The people will be proud of it,” she said.
In a commentary against waste-producing lifestyles, Indian artist creates a sculpture made from 70,000 bottle caps
Indian artist Arunkumar HG has created a somewhat tongue-in-cheek calling out of our throwaway, waste-producing lifestyles with a shoreline sculpture made from nearly 70,000 bottle screw caps. The artist amassed the collection from his neighborhood over the course of a year, carefully stacked the caps, and connected them in vertical configurations using steel filaments. An undulating, horseshoe-like form resulted, resembling, from afar, a mosaic that is pleasant to behold courtesy of the various colors. “There is a huge imbalance in between our sustainable ecology and our contemporary living practices,” the artist told Designboom. Titled Droppings and the Dam(n), the sculpture is made from bottle caps sourced from Arunkumar’s town of Gurgaon, India, to “map the consumption pattern of the society at the time” and show the scale of waste produced within a limited time period. The sculpture was built for the most recent edition of "Sculpture by the Sea" in Aarhus, Denmark, a government-funded public arts project originating on Sydney’s world-famous Bondi beach. “I have always loved large community arts events like 'Opera in the Park' and 'Symphony Under the Stars', especially the way total strangers sit next to each other listening to music while enjoying a picnic dinner and a few glasses of wine,” David Handley, founding director of Sculpture by the Sea, wrote in a post on the official website explaining the reason he started the initiative. “To me this sense of community is too rarely displayed or available in the modern world.” The month-long public art exhibition is Denmark’s largest visual arts event and typically attracts half a million visitors.
Honoring the forgotten: Melbourne-based artist Robbie Rowlands makes Detroit's abandoned houses come to life
The deteriorating floorboards and walls of abandoned homes appear to defiantly reassert their existence in artist Robbie Rowlands’ exhibition, Intervention. While on residency in Detroit, Michigan, the Melbourne-based artist drew attention to abandoned houses by ripping out certain sections and creating track-like extensions of their fixtures—so that the otherwise nondescript wall seems to implore, “pay attention to me.” The idea is to take a rundown structure and bring it back to life, even if only in the metaphorical sense, saving inanimate objects from forgetfulness by giving them an unprecedented reincarnation. Rowlands thus navel-gazes on the nature of decay to convey the truism that we only pay attention to these ever-present objects when they begin to break down. Most of Rowlands’ pieces resemble rollercoaster tracks gone haywire as sections of the pockmarked wall curl outward and sweep the floor. Intervention consists of pieces sporting forlorn, personifying titles like Singled out, Sorry for the Intrusion, and Feeling exposed. To Die with No Fear features the boards of a gutted shed curled on a dusty floor, illuminated by a single shaft of light through a chink in the disintegrated woodwork. Rowlands’ previous work involved cut-up pianos, an overturned basketball hoop cut into sections, spiraling cartoonishly over the ground as if made from rubber. Rowlands also eviscerated a desk, cutting it, too, into sections to make it look vaguely like it was raising its wings in a “notice me” overture. “If the former object is largely unrecognizable in the new sculpture, the process is not one of violence. Rather, there is a sense of redemption, as if the object has been liberated from obsolescence, from forgetfulness,” writer Simon Cooper wrote in an essay accompanying Rowlands’ Disintegration exhibition in 2008.
Navy Pier's new "Wave Wall" by nArchitects lays a modern Spanish Steps at the foot of a Ferris wheel
Navy Pier is three years into a $278 million overhaul, and the new face of Illinois' most visited tourist attraction is beginning to emerge—most recently a grand staircase titled “Wave Wall" washed over the foot of the pier's famous ferris wheel. The peninsular mall and mixed-use amusement park has many major changes still in store, courtesy of a design team led by James Corner Field Operations. But photos available on the website of designers nARCHITECTS reveal a completed portion of the project collectively called “Pierscape” that creates an outdoor amphitheater from a simple stairway. (The full design team includes dozens of consultants.) The form of the new public space, which faces south into Chicago Harbor, resembles a sweeping wave or a wending draft of wind. Treads made of composite materials domesticate the snarling steel risers. Glass beneath the steps allow passersby indoors at the Pier to glimpse activity on the steps outside. From the bottom of the stairs, the project unspools into an audience seating area for public performances, and also frames the historic Navy Pier Ferris wheel—a 196-foot tall wheel will soon replace the current one, itself a stand-in for the 264-foot icon first transported to the spot from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The designers say “Wave Wall” was inspired by the Spanish Steps in Rome.