San Francisco and New Haven, Connecticut-based multidisciplinary design studio Atelier Cho Thompson has been named the winner of the eighth annual Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition by the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership and Brooklyn-based nonprofit Van Alen Institute. The winning proposal is the firm’s interactive public art installation titled Interwoven. The proposal submitted by the bicoastal practice (a 2020 AN Best of Design Awards winner in the Young Architects category) beat out fellow shortlisted designs from AD-WO and Isometric Studio.
Last year’s winning installation was Studio Cooke John’s pandemic-appropriate Point of Action; founder and principal Nina Cooke John was among the four design experts in Van Alen’s network to submit nominations for this year’s shortlisted designs alongside Justin Garrett Moore, program officer for the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Humanities in Place grant initiative; Mark Gardner, principal with Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects, and architecture curator and educator Ashley Mendelsohn.
Interwoven will be realized and on public view from November 22 through January 2 of next year on the Flatiron North Public Plaza at Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street in Manhattan. Like past competition-winning installations, Interwoven is meant to bring people together during the holiday season and spread a bit of divergent, yet festive, cheer in a season that can be both simultaneously overwhelming and isolating for New Yorkers (mostly the former for visitors.) Like year’s pandemic-era competition, the 2021 edition places an increased emphasis on connectivity and bolstering community bonds.
Interwoven, which will be fabricated from high-density cork, netting, resin, and recycled steel framing, is centered around an interactive gridded “story wall” and will feature archways inspired by the “geometric symmetries” of the Flatiron Building along with a hammock and benches. The archways themselves will be activated by color-coded sensors so that when two or more people pass through sensors of the same color, Interwoven “responds with corresponding lights and musical compositions by local artists inspired by the installation’s themes.”
Similar to Love Letters, a billet-doux-ready installation designed by Soft–Firm that won last year’s Times Square Design Competition, Interwoven also invites the public to leave behind warm and hopeful messages on the installation itself. Specifically, the public is invited to share responses to a prompt—“I dream of a world where together we can…”— selected by Youth Fellows from the People’s Bus NYC.
As detailed by the Van Alen Institute, “the resulting narratives will become a patchwork of voices documenting this challenging yet hopeful moment.”
“One of our key tenets as a firm is that we can build community around design,” said Ming Thompson and Christina Cho Yoo, co-founders of Atelier Cho Thompson. “Interwoven highlights our fundamental desires to connect with each other through shared experiences and to celebrate our differences. Interwoven offers a platform for stories and dreams of our future.”
The larger project team includes in-kind sponsors MHA Engineering, Lam Partners, Indistinguishable from Magic, Hunter Douglas and 3form, LLI Architectural Lighting, EcoSupply, Fusion Optix, and Cadwell Signs. Grant funding was made possible by the Poise Bounce Back Grant for Women-Owned Businesses, Stand with Asian Americans / Asian Pacific Fund, and an anonymous donor. Fabrication and site installation for Interwoven, which will be presented in partnership with the New York City Department of Transportation’s Temporary Art Program, will be completed by Smart Department Fabrication, Inc.
After debuting Interwoven on the Flatiron North Public Plaza, Atelier Cho Thompson plans to partner with New Haven-based community organizations to bring the installation to a public park. During its seasonal stint in the Flatiron District, Interwoven will be open to the public daily, weather permitting. Visitors, of course, are encouraged to share their visits on social media using the #InterwovenFlatiron hashtag.