SOFTlab Wins Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition

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The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District (BID) and the Van Alen Institute recently announced the winner of the Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition, which called for proposals for a temporary installation in NYC’s Flatiron District. The winning proposal came from SOFTlab, whose Nova installation opens November 18th and will be on display through the holidays as part of the Partnership’s annual “23 Days of Flatiron Cheer” programming. We spoke with SOFTlab’s Founder and Principal, Michael Szivos, about the design and partnering with 3M on the materials here’s what he had to say.

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What about the Flatiron location inspired the direction of the piece?

The surrounding context of landmark buildings was the biggest influence on the design. The installation is meant to be a kind pedestrian scale kaleidoscope that uses the surrounding urban context as the material to get fragmented and multiplied in the various view cones of the installation.

Did you know you wanted to work with 3M materials at the start?

We reached out to 3M when we were invited to participate in the competition. We have been lucky enough to work with 3M on projects previously and we know they are very interested in leveraging their materials through design and in unexpected ways. We knew we wanted them to be integral to the design so we reached out to them before we began sketching out ideas.

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Since you’ve worked with 3M Dichroic film before, what is it about the material that made you utilize it again? How did the material guide the design process?

3M Dichroic is an amazing material that combines many of the qualities we found interesting in other projects, color, transparency, and reflectivity. Through the way the film filters light it has a very dynamic quality changing color and reflectivity depending on the angle of view and how light passes through it. The crystalline interior of the installation takes advantage of this by creating many surfaces of the material at different angles. This crystalline surface of 3M dichroic becomes the lens through which visitors can view the surrounding urban context.

Tell us about the exterior shape/surface/color vs. the crystalline interior.

The exterior surface is clad with mirrored dibond, a composite aluminum material. The mirrored surface of the dibond each view cone a large kaleidoscope by reflecting and fragmenting the view infinitely in the interior surfaces of the cones.

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From Eric Quint, 3M Chief Design Officer:

I’m always inspired to see how 3M solutions can be used in new and creative ways, and our Dichroic Film is an example of how design and technology bring surprise to the dance of light. We collaborated with SOFTlab in the past for our brand activation at this year’s SXSW festival in Austin. Of course, we were thrilled when we learned about the opportunity for 3M materials to help bring the creative vision of Mike and his team to life for the Flatiron Plaza holiday installation. There is a strong relationship between science and design, and this is obviously something SOFTlab considered when developing their concept that intricately relies on the optical play between angles, space, color, materials and surface to create a magical experience in the heart of Manhattan. We always ask how we can apply science to life at 3M, and it’s rewarding to see how designers and artists can collaborate to explore that question.

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Take a look at the finished piece:

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