Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition unveiled

Image Credit | (c) 3M

This week, the Flatiron / 23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District (BID) and Van Alen Institute unveiled SOFTlab’s Nova, the winner of the Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition that serves as the centerpiece of the Partnership’s annual holiday programming and a highly visible landmark in this thriving neighborhood of New York. The second annual competition of its kind, the initiative called for proposals from New York design firms for a temporary installation for the holidays at the heart of the Flatiron District.

Image Credit | (c) 3M

Image Credit | (c) Van Alen Institute

The crystalline Nova installation compels passersby to enter the structure and gaze onto Flatiron’s iconic landmarks, framed by apertures in the installation’s exterior. The placement of scopes, or viewing cones, is arranged to represent a centralized proverbial North Star for the Flatiron District, with each scope pointing to a distinct landmark. In effect, Nova acts as an observatory for the “constellation” of iconic sites: the Flatiron Building, Met Life Tower clock tower, Empire State Building, and surrounding landmarks. LEDs within Nova react to sound and create a pulsating light effect when activated.

Image Credit | (c) Van Alen Institute

“Using a mix of optical materials, our design creates a human scale kaleidoscope, remixing the surrounding iconic buildings with color, light, and the reflections of pedestrians,” said Michael Szivos, Founder and Principal at SOFTlab. “Although our design reads as an iconic and festive figure from above, the experience at the pedestrian level is very different. The exterior gives way to a crystal-like, mirror-surfaced interior that looks different from all sides.”

SOFTlab’s installation opened to the public on Wednesday, November 18th—on the North Flatiron Public Plaza at Broadway, Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street—and will remain on view through the holidays as part of the Partnership’s annual “23 Days of Flatiron Cheer” programming. The installation is permitted through NYC DOT Art.

Nova was selected from a closed call competition held by the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership and Van Alen Institute, an organizer of design competitions for over 120 years. Five design and architecture firms were invited to submit proposals for this year’s installation. The invited firms were Bureau V, Method Design, Sage and Coombe, SOFTlab, and Studio KCA. A jury with expertise across the worlds of design and public art reviewed the proposals, including representatives from the BID’s Board of Directors, as well as Van Alen Institute’s Board of Trustees.

Competition Jury Members

Nicholas Athanail, The Corcoran Group and Flatiron Partnership board member; Michael Bierut, Partner, Pentagram; Wendy Feuer, New York City Department of Transportation Urban Design & Art; Jessica Healy, USA Pavilion Expo Milano 2015 and Van Alen board member; John Loercher, Digifabshop; Jane Kojima, Deputy Director, Flatiron Partnership; Aleksey Lukyanov, Partner, Situ Studio; and David van der Leer, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute.

Image Credits | Van Alen Institute and 3M (as noted)