Heart Squared (2020)
[collaboration with MODU]
Steel, acrylic mirrors, plywood, custom software
12' x 15' x 10' high
Installation commissioned by Times Square Arts
Curated by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Heart Squared is a public artwork using the magic of mirrors and light to remix the urban spectacle into something unexpected, giving people a new way to see the city — and each other.
Formed from a cubic steel lattice hovering on a platform, its shape is derived from an abstracted anatomical heart. It is made of thin rods and 98% air, a cloud of steel and mirrors, encouraging viewers to surround it and experience its infinite grid from all sides. Suspended within the open lattice, and tilted in various directions, 125 mirrors reflect an interwoven kaleidoscope of the urban landscape of people, buildings, and brightly-lit billboards.
Viewers can interact spontaneously with one another through the mirrors or find their own experiences within the piece, celebrating their love of the city and the incredible diversity of people within it. As viewers move around the structure they will find the “sweet spot” where the many reflections suddenly coalesce, revealing a giant pixel heart of urban life surrounded by a field of mirrored sky.
Manhattan’s verticality has shaped the image of the city. This project emphasizes the importance of the horizontal Manhattan, the public floor of the city. Chaotic, crowded and noisy, it’s the part of New York that we have learned to cherish the most. Its greatest asset is the freedom to be ourselves amongst others who are different than us. We imagine Heart Squared as an amplifier of this togetherness.
Heart Squared is designed as a balancing act between structure and air, buildings and sky, people and city, movement and slowness. We hope this work encourages people to share space with each other, to see each other in the work, and even to help each other find the sweet spot where the heart is revealed. Times Square is one of the most dynamic public spaces in the world, and this artwork celebrates its energetic environment. Yet the more viewers slow down as they move around the installation, the more they discover.
The mirrored pixel effect is accomplished by computationally aligning each reflection to a specific spot in the environment. The mirrors inside the heart shape reflect people, buildings, and billboards, while the mirrors around the heart reflect only the sky. They sky is the last thing one expects to find in Times Square, yet even in one of the densest urban spaces in the world, it is possible to connect to nature.
We developed custom parametric software to determine the two axes of rotation for each mirror, such that it would reflect a chosen point in three dimensional space only when viewed from the sweet spot. Our software then outputted these angles for fabrication, and each was set with a locking ball joint. The mirrors can be adjusted on site as needed, as well as be re-calibrated for new locations, forming a new site specific installation in response to that landscape.
Heart Squared always reflects more than any one viewer finding him or herself within it. It brings people together to discover the heart within — a heart that reflects anyone and everyone who engages with it. Strangers share this experience together. Its colors and composition change as the sun rises and sets, as billboards illuminate and screens shift, and as thousands of people pass through the space. Heart Squared celebrates the essential New York — bringing together people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, orientations, and walks of life. Heart Squared represents the collective heart of the city and as such, is a directly engaging civic statement about celebrating our differences and bringing people together.
About the Competition
Heart Squared was the winner of New York City’s 2020 Times Square Valentine Heart Design Competition.
2020 was the 12th anniversary of the competition, an annual event where Times Square Arts invites architecture and design firms to submit proposals for a public art installation celebrating Love in Times Square in February. This year the competition was curated by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
It was exhibited in Father Duffy Square on 7th Avenue between 46th and 47th Streets from January 30 - March 1, 2020. It was seen by an estimated 7 million people.
Design - MODU and Eric Forman Studio
Organizers - Times Square Alliance
Curator - Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Fabrication - New Project
Structural Engineering - Silman, under Scott Hughes, Principal
Sponsors - The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts; The Ripple Foundation, Carrie Denning Jackson and Daniel Jackson; the National Endowment for the Arts; and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council
In-Kind Sponsors - New Project for fabrication; Silman for structural engineering
Photography - Frank Oudeman / OTTO
Videography - Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts; Afterimaging Production