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.