BY CARSEN HOLADAY
If you could write a love letter, where would you send it?
Soft-Firm’s installation Love Letters will be unveiled on Feb. 10 in the middle of Times Square. The piece invites visitors to publicly engage with the art by leaving love letters of their own within the sculpture.
The installation is the winner of 2021’s Times Square Design Competition: Love In Our Times, curated by firm Reddymade and developed in consultation with worthless studios. For 12 years, Times Square Arts has celebrated themes of love in architecture and design through hosting the February competition. In its thirteenth year, Times Square Arts and Reddymade made the decision to expand the program’s themes to include the tone of the unprecedented challenges that New York City, along with the rest of the world, has faced.
To incorporate the themes of collective resilience, interdependence and inclusivity, the hosts introduced a material constraint to the competition for the first time: plywood. Plywood serves as a visual symbol for all that New York City went through in 2020. The material became familiar throughout the city as business owners boarded up storefronts- either closing because of financial troubles caused by the pandemic or protecting the store from the anticipated protest. In both scenarios, plywood came to signal unrest and uncertainty.
“Soft-Firm has poetically transformed plywood — which has become a marker of fear and defensiveness across the landscape of our country — and repurposed it into something unexpected: a platform for creative expressions of love, inclusivity, and hope,” said Times Square Arts Director Jean Cooney.
In addition to plywood, the creators used mirror windows, safety net and dichroic film to form the four chambers of the urban amphitheatre. The installation allows for multiple levels of participation as visitors can explore the socially distanced areas- the soapbox, loveseat, chapel, and wishing well. The structure features seating areas in secluded parts of the infrastructure. Visitors are invited to tie ribbons or messages to the safety net.
“Love Letters is at once an offering to the public in the beating heart of New York, and a repository for the wishes of its citizens and activists,” said Soft-Firm’s Representatives Lexi Tsien and Talitha Liu. “Using ribbons as an expression of love and unity, the public is invited to tie wish tokens on to the safety net, allowing the installation to transform over time.”
Over time the installation, in the shape of two interlocked hearts, is expected to become a sort of memorial. As it stands in the middle of one of the busiest intersections in New York City, it will remain a beacon of hope and unity to its people.
“Love Letters is a beautiful architectonic expression of the line dividing our private and communal selves,” said Reddymade Founder Suchi Reddy.Soft-Firm’s Love Letters will remain at Father Duffy Square from February 10 to March 10. For more information about the installation or how to participate, visit www.TSQ.org/Love.