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Flatiron Faces: Deirdre & Nicholas McDermott, Future Expansion

Flatiron Faces: Deirdre and Nicholas McDermott, Architects and Partners at Future Expansion

Meet Deirdre and Nicholas McDermott, winners of this year’s Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition. The pair's shimmering structure, Flatiron Reflection, will open to the public on November 20th and will be on display on the Flatiron North Public Plaza through January 1st. Flatiron Reflection serves as the centerpiece for the sixth annual "23 Days of Flatiron Cheer" programming.

1.) Briefly tell us about your firm, Future Expansion.

Nicholas: Future Expansion is about five years old at this point and coincidentally its origins are somewhat tied to another public art installation. We won a commission from the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) to build a temporary urban-scale sculpture for a vacant lot next to the BAM Harvey Theater. It was our first real job as an office, and an incredible experience for all of the collaboration, research, and coordination, which allowed us to get our hands dirty on a project we were very intellectually invested in. Since that project, we’ve mostly worked on more traditional architecture assignments for commercial, institutional, and residential clients. In general, we think architecture offers a compelling opportunity to engage in the creation of the city that does not yet exist, the city of the future, in the sense that the city is always reinventing itself, always changing. It’s also important to note that though small, the office is more than the sum of the two partners; Vincent Mai and Michael Filomeno from our office worked on this project and were instrumental in its realization.

2.) What led each of you to practice architecture?

Nicholas: I was a philosophy major in college but got turned onto architecture while living in London during a year abroad studying philosophy of science at the London School of Economics and traveling around Europe. Although what I studied in philosophy of science seems more relevant now than I ever imagined it would be, that was it, there was no hesitation after London.

Deirdre: I told my parents at a very young age that I wanted to be an architect.

3.) Can you share some of the ways you keep your design practice partnership fresh and creative?

Deirdre: We are constantly looking outside ourselves for inspiration. The city, in a big way, keeps the practice fresh. You can always experience something new even on the same block you walk down everyday; it's a consistent influence and reminds us that you can approach each design project from a different angle.

4.) What are your thoughts about your proposal being selected as the centerpiece for the Partnership's annual "23 Days of Flatiron Cheer" holiday programming?

Nicholas: Thrilled!

5.) What was your inspiration for Flatiron Reflection? What do you hope will be the public's takeway when experiencing it?

Nicholas: We were inspired by, among other things, the great Edward Steichen photograph of the Flatiron Building. The way that the building appears through the fog, the clarity of the form amidst the ambiguity and murkiness of the image was the inspiration for the blurrily reflective surface treatment we proposed in our design. But, right from the beginning, we also talked about wanting to create a project that could create some amount of separation between the viewer and the noise of the street. Having said that, it was also critical that the project reinforce the public nature of the plaza. More than anything, this is a public space project. New Yorkers need to value and demand more from the custodians of the public realm. These are vital infrastructures without which the city would not exist in a recognized form. The installation should make the plaza feel more public, more open, more exceptional.

Deirdre: I hope that Flatiron Reflection will not only be experienced from the outside but also from within. I think that there is a powerful moment that is inherent in the plaza of taking in the city at a grander scale, of opening up and redirecting the experience.

6.) What is your favorite building or achitectural element in the Flatiron District?

Nicholas: The Flatiron Building, of course. It’s hard to compete. Although, from Madison Square Park, the scale of the big arched entrance on the corner of the 11 Madison building is wonderful. It feels like it addresses the city, and it’s so present as a form but as you approach it, you experience it as space.

Deirdre: To me, it’s standing in the middle of the open plaza and looking up. The buildings that surround the park and plaza - Flatiron included - all have a relative character that runs between them. There are very few places where you get to step back and take in so much beautiful architecture all at once and from that vantage point.

7.) What's your favorite destination or 'must see' in the neighborhood?

Nicholas: Madison Square Park is a wonderful urban oasis, and you’ve got to love MoMATH.

8.) What's your favorite place to eat in Flatiron?

Deirdre: A Voce, though we are delinquent in our patronage to the big names on the block.

Nicholas: We don’t get out of Brooklyn much.

9.) Finally, describe the Flatiron District in three words.

Ready for Reflection.

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It's never too cold for comedy! So it's not too cold to stop by our #23DaysofFlatironCheer tent!

We will warm you up with a tasty ginger spiced hot chocolate by  <a target="_blank" href="http://instagram.com/eatbonmi">@eatbonmi</a>on the North Flatiron Plaza! Take in musical comedy by  <a target="_blank" href="http://instagram.com/thepitnyc">@thepitnyc</a>while you spin the prize wheel to win neighborhood prizes!

 <a target="_blank" href="http://instagram.com/sonysquarenyc">@sonysquarenyc</a>also has some sweet swag and a warm place to go!

Out on the North Plaza by #FlatironReflection until 4pm!

#discoverflatiron #eatbonmi #thepitnyc #sonysquarenyc
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It's never too cold for comedy! So it's not too cold to stop by our #23DaysofFlatironCheer tent! We will warm you up with a tasty ginger spiced hot chocolate by @eatbonmion the North Flatiron Plaza! Take in musical comedy by @thepitnycwhile you spin the prize wheel to win neighborhood prizes! @sonysquarenycalso has some sweet swag and a warm place to go! Out on the North Plaza by #FlatironReflection until 4pm! #discoverflatiron #eatbonmi #thepitnyc #sonysquarenyc
2 mins ago