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In an interesting collaboration between two committees at opposite ends of the spectrum, the AIANY Interiors and Planning & Urban Design Committees, came a panel on public art, which Hayes Slade, AIA, one of the organizers, claims “crystallizes the relationship of the public and architecture.” The following three presentations reaffirmed that; how they do varies greatly.

Fulton Center, the new transit station designed by Grimshaw, which opened to the public this week, led the presentations. Sandra Bloodworth leads the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Arts and Urban Design Program, which brings site-specific artworks to subway stations to give them a unique identity. She presented with Grimshaw’s Andrew Whalley, AIA, RIBA, and James Carpenter, president and founder of James Carpenter Design Associates, the core team that designed the centerpiece of the station, the oculus. With the intent to span the east side of the island to the west while connecting 11 train lines, Fulton Center, and the oculus particularly, anchor the station complex with a gathering space and orients one within the sprawl. “The art results from the collaboration,” Bloodworth said.

In a more intimate scale, Susan Chin, FAIA, introduced the Design Trust for Public Space (DTPS) and its work with Situ Studio, represented by Aleksey Lukyanov-Cherny. Situ Studio began its partnership collaborating on temporary, reusable installations. Eight years later, with Heartwalk, the post-Sandy installation built from reclaimed boardwalk wood from multiple locations, this still holds true. Currently, their installation Boogie Down Booth provides a rest area and performance space in the Bronx beneath the elevated train. Both works reinforce Chin’s claim that “small interventions can have a very large impact on people in public space.”

Sara Reisman heads the city’s Percent for Art program, which currently has 80 public art commissions in progress, and collaborates with numerous government agencies to realize them, including the School Construction Authority, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, and NYC Department of Design + Construction, to name a few. However, it was work with the Queens Public Library that highlighted collaborations with Steven Holl Architects and Snøhetta at Hunters Point Library and Far Rockaway, respectively. “We do have moments when the architect has an idea of the art,” but she affirmed the program aims for diversity in the city’s public art.

When moderator William Menking, editor-in-chief of The Architect’s Newspaper, asked what designers should focus on, the discussion focused on collaboration, vision, and duration. Chin called the DTPS’s process a form of crowd sourcing that combines artists with agencies, and gives artists a larger role: “Just giving up a wall is not what we have in mind.” Reisman encouraged artists who are brought in later in the process to see “what kind of buy-in you can get by being dreamy.” These programs are not for the shortsighted. Despite a design being completed, Reisman said delays could mean years before execution. Corner confirmed this: “We were a small part on the team for 10 years…trying to make our meager fee last.” Reisman reminded us of Mierle Laderman Ukeles, who has advocated for a public park at Freshkills since 1989; she installed a work in 2010 and is still working on additional art works. Bloodworth offered a lesson learned: “It was far from easy. You’re ready for it to be difficult from the beginning.”

James Way, Assoc. AIA, Marketing Manager at Dattner Architects, frequently contributes to eOculus.

Event: Art and Architecture in the Public Realm
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.04.14
Panelists: Sandra Bloodworth, Director, Arts and Urban Design, MTA; James Carpenter, President and Founder, James Carpenter Design Associates; Andrew Whalley, Partner, Grimshaw; Susan Chin, FAIA, Executive Director, Design Trust for Public Space; Aleksey Lukyanov-Cherny, Owner, Situ Studio and Architecture & Planning Consultant; Sara Reisman, Director, Percent for Art Program, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs; William Menking, Editor-in-Chief, The Architect’s Newspaper (moderator); and Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, 2014 President, AIANY (introduction)
Organized by: AIANY Interiors Committee and AIANY Planning & Urban Design Committee
Sponsored by: Axor Hansgrohe