by Sunena V MajuJun 17, 2023
As part of the 2023 edition of Archtober, NYCxDesign unveils three public art and design installations in New York’s Gansevoort Plaza, located in the Meatpacking District, and The Podium at One World Trade Center. Archtober, founded in 2011, is a New York City-based platform that operates with the intention of promoting architectural and design-centric experiences through an array of programmes, interactive installations and talks. For this, Archtober works with museums, cultural institutions, consulates, advocacy groups, parks, designers and architects, and more. While the event takes place from October 1 to October 31, 2023, the Design Pavilions installed by NYCx Design are on view from October 12 to 18, 2023.
“Each year, the Design Pavilion showcases provocative architecture in some of the city’s finest public spaces, and the works curated for this year’s celebration of Archtober on display in Gansevoort Plaza are no exception with the Meatpacking District as their backdrop,” said Jeffrey LeFrancois, Executive Director of the Meatpacking District Management Association.
Founded in 2015 by Ilene Shaw, NYCxDesign’s Design Pavilion, an annual public-facing and free event, was established with the intention of increasing awareness about the importance of design, while also encouraging audiences to thing about design for the future. “As we kickstart the months of preparation that lead up to the NYCxDESIGN Festival in May 2024, we are excited to partner with AIA New York and The Center for Architecture in celebration of Archtober, by offering the public a vision of stellar sustainable and ethical practices through the lens of design,” says Ilene Shaw, NYCxDESIGN’s Executive Director, and Design Pavilion Founder.
The design exhibition comprises two physical installations and a digital installation, by llLab, Michael Bennett, and Marjorie Guyon, among other collaborators. While Bamboo Cloud and Public Display, placed in the Gansevoort Plaza, serve as spaces for congregation, connection, conversations and temporary forums, the third showcase, I Was Here, is a digital art project that serves to mark a dynamic presence in the area, while also imparting a key message about the American past. In addition to the showcase of the three pavilions, a series of talks around topics such as sustainability, repurposing, and elimination of the world’s waste. “Activations to inspire discussions around materiality, sustainability, social justice, and the abundant creativity that energises New York City,” reads a declaration by the organisers.
Installed within the Gansevoort Plaza in the Meatpacking District in New York, Bamboo Cloud is an overarching shed-like pavilion, designed by Shanghai-based architecture studio llLab. The design studio, which first originated in Stuttgart, Germany, operates within the realms of architecture, design, art, urbanism, and research and development, with the intent of utilising their designs as a tool for the improvement of both social and cultural lives, at varying scales. The playful and context-specific approach taken by the studio is noticeably apparent in Bamboo Cloud, which is situated in a public plaza open for residents and visitors to sit, enjoy meals or witness local events.
The bamboo structure is further enhanced by the inclusion of lighting elements within the structure, incorporated in collaboration with architectural lighting design firm L’Observatoire International and lighting suppliers Nanometer Lighting Color Kinetics. “The Bamboo Cloud defines a temporary new space offering visitors a seat under its playful game of light and shadow, to contemplate community. Its materiality spreads a golden light that will mark this New York City street,” shares Hanxiao Liu, co-founding partner at llLab.
The organically shaped public installation seeks to challenge the traditional applications of bamboo and encourage the usage of this sustainable material as a regular building construction material in both small and large-scale projects. Woven out of bamboo strips, the pavilion stands sturdy using its internal force. The delicately woven structure of the installation stands in contrast against its sturdy frame, hence establishing the merit of bamboo as a structurally resilient material. In a bid to enhance the experience of interacting with Bamboo Cloud, the installation remains washed in light–during evenings—that slaps against the intricately laced structure. "The idea was to create a sense of floating space at night above the streets in a mysterious way, finding the balance between the bamboo's texture and the sensation of depth and immateriality,” says Hervé Descottes, founding principal at L’Observatoire International.
I Was Here
The I Was Here project, conceptualised by Marjorie Guyon, comprises a series of public history and public art installations that first began in Lexington, Kentucky (home to the largest auction site of the enslaved west of the Allegheny Mountain), in 2016. The intent of the project is an acknowledgement of American history. Several African-Americans were photographed for this project, as representatives of their ancestors, hence commemorating this community, whose imagery has mostly been missing from America’s visual history. "Through the blending of history, technology, design, humanities and the arts, the project explores the significance of memory, history and ancestry,” the project description reads. Installed on all four faces of the One World Trade Center podium—200 feet above the ground—by Spireworks (an engagement platform for some of the world's most celebrated architectural lighting), I Was Here is a digital projection reflecting America’s history of enslavement and the wish to heal wounded sites. The installation comprises the animated montage of a series of portraits, entitled Ancestor Spirit Portraits.
"When I was three, I took the ferry and climbed to the very top of Lady Liberty to see the land and sea through her eyes. Like the Statue of Liberty, the Ancestor Spirit Portraits of the I Was Here project are iconic—their presence allowing our city, our country, and our world to see through their sacred, ancient eyes," said Marjorie Guyon, artist and founder of I Was Here. The animated video was conceived and co-created by Marc Aptakin, Roy Husdell, and Yoel Meneses of Yes We Are Mad. The location of the installation is especially pertinent since it stands near the New York Harbor and the intersection of Wall Street and the East River, the second-largest auction site for enslaved Africans in the country. NYCxDESIGN intends to continue its support for the project with city-wide projections and digital experiences planned for the coming year.
Another spatial installation within the Gansevoort Plaza is Public Display, designed to accommodate and facilitate gatherings, for leisure, communication and more. The congruently angled space is conceptualised by Michael Bennett, a former Super Bowl Champion and NFL defensive end, who is now exploring architecture as the Founding Principal and Creative Director at Studio Kër. "Tension arises when a weighty object occupies space, yet it instils a sense of peace and tranquillity," mentions an excerpt from the press release, describing the presence of the installation. The form of the perfectly balanced station rests so on account of the qualities of Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT), which is used to build the structure. "Public Display is a tribute to our environment, with a commitment to sustainability and an artistic presentation. Plus, the space offers a series of community conversations. To listen is to love, so we create sacred space to listen," shares Bennett.
With a cave-style seating framing and pointing towards a partially covered stage, the structure also serves as a performance space. As part of the Design Pavilion in New York City, the installation, along with Bamboo Cloud, also plays host to various dialogues designed and conducted by Stockholm-based Form Us With Love as part of this year’s edition of Design Talks. The talks ponder upon the topics of waste management, circular economy, and other sustainability-related topics.