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Flatiron Partnership and Van Alen Institute Unveil Winner of Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition

On Wednesday, November 18th, the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District (BID) and Van Alen Institute unveiled SOFTlab’s Nova, the winner of the Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition that serves as the centerpiece of the Partnership’s annual holiday programming and a highly visible landmark in this thriving neighborhood of New York. The second annual competition of its kind, the initiative called for proposals from New York design firms for a temporary installation for the holidays at the heart of the Flatiron District.

The crystalline Nova installation compels passersby to enter the structure and gaze onto Flatiron’s iconic landmarks, framed by apertures in the installation’s exterior. The placement of scopes, or viewing cones, is arranged to represent a centralized proverbial North Star for the Flatiron District, with each scope pointing to a distinct landmark. In effect, Nova acts as an observatory for the “constellation” of iconic sites: the Flatiron Building, Met Life Tower clock tower, Empire State Building, and surrounding landmarks. LEDs within Nova react to sound and create a pulsating light effect when activated.

“Using a mix of optical materials, our design creates a human scale kaleidoscope, remixing the surrounding iconic buildings with color, light, and the reflections of pedestrians,” said Michael Szivos, Founder and Principal at SOFTlab. “Although our design reads as an iconic and festive figure from above, the experience at the pedestrian level is very different. The exterior gives way to a crystal-like, mirror-surfaced interior that looks different from all sides.”

SOFTlab’s installation opened to the public on Wednesday, November 18th—on the North Flatiron Public Plaza at Broadway, Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street—and will remain on view through the holidays as part of the Partnership’s annual “23 Days of Flatiron Cheer” programming. The installation is permitted through NYC DOT Art.

Nova was selected from a closed call competition held by the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership and Van Alen Institute, an organizer of design competitions for over 120 years. Five design and architecture firms were invited to submit proposals for this year’s installation. The invited firms were Bureau V, Method Design, Sage and Coombe, SOFTlab, and Studio KCA. A jury with expertise across the worlds of design and public art reviewed the proposals, including representatives from the BID’s Board of Directors, as well as Van Alen Institute’s Board of Trustees.

"The annual holiday installation is now a tradition in the district that is enjoyed by visitors and locals alike.  It provides a festive and magical experience on the Public Plaza during the holiday season,” said Flatiron Partnership Executive Director Jennifer Brown.  “We are particularly proud that this year’s installation is a true local effort – not only in our partnership with Van Alen Institute, but also in the selection of a neighborhood design firm, SOFTlab.”

“This project is a fantastic opportunity to engage with a local site and designer,” said David van der Leer, Executive Director of Van Alen Institute. “SOFTlab’s Nova offers a playful and unusual perspective of the landmarks and street life surrounding the plaza that is a visually stimulating and interactive outdoor experience for the holiday season.”

“DOT Art is excited to be partnering with the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership for this second holiday season. The installation illustrates how interactive public art can change the perception of an environment thereby allowing people to experience it in a new way. We count on organizations like the Partnership to commission these exciting installations making NYC streets ever more inviting,” said DOT Assistant Commissioner of Design + Art + Wayfinding Wendy Feuer.

“Design is always about creating magical experiences, and we’re excited to see 3M materials inspire SOFTlab to connect imagination with space and community for this year’s winning Flatiron installation,” said Eric Quint, Chief Design Officer at 3M. “Collaborative creativity is what sparks ongoing new possibilities in our world of design; the Nova project demonstrates this, transforming 3M optical materials for light management into a new context of art and architecture in the heart of the Flatiron District.”

Sponsored by the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership, Nova and the accompanying programming “23 Days of Flatiron Cheer” is also made possible with generous support from Presenting Sponsors Tiffany & Co. and Meringoff Properties, Contributing Sponsors Grey Group and Macmillan.

To download the full press release, click here.

To download high resolution images of Nova, click here.

Images copyright 3M


Happy Bike to Work Day! The neighborhood is the perfect place to ride whether using your personal bicycle or  <a target="_blank" href="">@citibike.</a>🚴 💫
Happy Bike to Work Day! The neighborhood is the perfect place to ride whether using your personal bicycle or @citibike.🚴 💫
2 days ago