When architects Aranda\Lasch and computational designer Marcelo Coelho were planning their entry to the Times Square Alliance and Design Trust for Public Space’s 10th Annual Times Square Valentine Heart Design Competition, they took a trip to the area. After observing thousands of visitors taking nonstop snapshots and selfies, it became clear that they would create an homage to screens, lenses, and our image-saturated society. The result was Window to the Heart, aka The Lens, a round, heart-centered sculpture that graced the north end of Times Square (between 46th and 47th Streets) throughout February. With The Lens, Aranda\Lasch and Coelho not only alluded to the area’s self-referential environment, but they created the world’s largest Fresnel lens—the flattened, ridged lenses you often see in lighthouses that recreate the effect of a much larger lens—measuring 12 feet, 2 inches in diameter, 10 feet tall, and weighing over two tons.
“Look around,” said Benjamin Aranda at the sculpture’s opening. “Everyone’s taking pictures right now. It never stops.” His colleague Joaquin Bonifaz added: “To be in Times Square means you’re seeing or being seen through a lens.”
How did they pull this off? In many stages, in many locations, with many partners:
First the team modeled the project in Rhinoceros and Neon with Long Island City-based Laufs Engineering Design. Then, with Formlabs in Boston, they 3-D printed 1,090 sawtooth resin tiles, utilizing Form 2 printers, working in tandem, for two weeks. Then, together with Brooklyn-based Caliper Studio, they fabricated the tiles, which were back coated with silicon and attached in 98 concentric rings on top of a clear, flat acrylic core, which had been trucked in from Reynolds Polymer in Colorado. Caliper fabricated the structure’s massive steel base, and the composition was then attached to the base and carefully transported it, with Yonkers-based 24/7 lifting, to Times Square.
The result was a mesmerizing piece, which abstracted, amplified, and bent the crazy, colorful lights and images of Times Square. The piece was best seen from afar, where clearer images related to ideal focal lengths.
The piece’s central, cutout heart was a tough sell for the team, who, like most designers, are more interested in abstraction than literal forms. But the results spoke for themselves, as visitors lined up to take pictures of, and with the sculpture, most of them poking their heads through its heart. “People get it immediately,” Aranda said. “They’re capturing it, they’re filtering it, they’re sharing it.”
Laufs Engineering Design