Thursday, June 03, 2010

Paintings for Satellites

Since the city closed sections of Broadway in Times Square and Herald Square last year, reactions have been both positive and negative, the latter having mainly to do with the fact the stretches aren't really designed; they're basically demarcated areas with movable furniture. Oh, and cabbies don't like the detours they must take when driving down Broadway. But one need only walk through either square to see the positive aspects, the popularity of the closed-off areas and the difficulty in procuring a chair in all but inclement weather. Regardless, with the city's decision to make the pedestrian zones permanent, it's clear something needs to be done beyond the initial "design."

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[reNEWable Times Square project rendering | image source]

Beginning in July, five areas in Times Square and Herald Square will feature installations by artist Molly Dilworth. According to WNYC, "'Cool Water, Hot Island' are based on a NASA-heat map of Manhattan" The rendering above makes the installation seem appropriate for the summer months, giving a distinctively cool feeling to the outdoor spaces. Supposedly the blues play off the oranges and other hot colors of the Times Square lighting.

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[Hendershot Gallery rooftop | image source]

Dilworth's installations -- what she calls "Paintings for Satellites" on flickr -- grace rooftops like the Hendershot Gallery in Chelsea. The artist describes that her "practice has grown out of the studio in the form of large-scale rooftop paintings for Google Earth." Hendershot's roof is not yet visible on Google Earth (I seem to recall the aerials being a few years old, if not more), but I like the idea of creating something for such a virtual experience, particularly because it is not a Target logo or some other corporate sign visible from planes and now online. With an 18-month run for the Times Square installation, there's a possibility that the paintings may not make their way into Google Earth, though I'm guessing many photos from the buildings above will be posted online.

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[Learning Garden by Ken Smith | top image source; bottom image by archidose]

Even with the temporary nature of the installation, I can't help but think about how painting asphalt walking surfaces is not the best treatment for pedestrian zones. Visiting Ken Smith's Learning Garden for P.S. 19 in Corona, Queens last year, a mere five years after its completion, I was disappointed to see -- or not see, more accurately -- that the painted dots on the playground had disappeared. Certainly budget is a factor in both the Learning Garden and Times Square, but if outdoor urban environments are to be truly valued then some long-term solutions should accompany the long-term planning.