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Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition 2015

Van Alen Institute and the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership organized the second annual Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition, which called for proposals from New York design firms for a temporary installation at the heart of the Flatiron District for the 2015 holiday season. 

SOFTlab’s winning proposal, Nova, was unveiled on November 18th, 2015 as the centerpiece of the Partnership’s annual holiday programming and a highly visible landmark in this thriving neighborhood of New York.

Proposals were reviewed by a jury with expertise across the worlds of design and public art, including representatives from the Partnership and Van Alen Institute’s Board of Trustees.

Nicholas Athanail, The Corcoran Group and Flatiron Partnership board member

Michael Bierut, Partner, Pentagram

Wendy Feuer, Assistant Commissioner, New York City Department of Transportation Urban Design & Art

Jessica Healy, USA Pavilion Expo Milano 2015 and Van Alen board member

John Loercher, Digifabshop

Jennifer Brown, Executive Director, Flatiron Partnership

Aleksey Lukyanov, Partner, SITU Studio

David van der Leer, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute

Nova by SOFTlab
Nova by SOFTlab
Nova by SOFTlab
Nova by SOFTlab

Softlab, Nova

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.

Bureau V: Tuleva

Tuleva represents a piece of a fictional humanoid toy from an imaginary, previously-unknown, technologically-advanced society. Visitors enter the installation to access information on its fantasy history and how it represents the past of the Flatiron District as the city’s former “Toy District,” and the area’s future as a growing hub of NYC’s high-tech community. Led by three partners, Stella Lee, Laura Trevino, and Peter Zuspan, Brooklyn-based studio Bureau V designs architecture, objects, clothing, performances, installations, and events.

Method Design: Land/Mark

Land/Mark addresses the relationship between iconic landmarks and ecological life by constructing an installation within the shadow of the Flatiron Building onto the plaza, creating a feedback loop between what Method Design identifies as three elements of landmark-making: place-making, achieved through a single meandering curb with sloping planes; space-making, demarcated by synthetic reeds that diffuse light and offer moments of privacy; and social amplifications, manifested in the proposal’s public furniture. The piece as a whole becomes its own micro-urban system that taps into and creates new context, memory, and inhabitation in the city. Method Design is led by Reese J. Campbell and Demetrios A. Comodromos.


Sage & Coombe: Snowclone

Snowclone is a rumination on the death of anticipatory calls to a relic of 20th-century urban infrastructure: the public telephone booth. To reignite the excitement of talking on the phone, modified phone booths align across the plaza, allowing strangers to speak to one another. The history of the telephone combined with the shape of the Flatiron District creates actual connections with individuals one would often pass unnoticed.

Studio KCA: Golden Ribbon

Golden Ribbon by StudioKCA is an installation with a cause. The structure resembles a giant holiday ribbon made of lit golden boxes.  In a partnership with a hunger relief organization, a box will be lit every time 25 meals are donated with hopes of 500 meals donated per day. Over seven weeks, the Golden Ribbon will become brighter, illuminating the holiday season of the Flatiron District.