By this time last year, we thought of the Unsquares project as a conceptually mature bit of speculative science fiction, but one whose dissemination/exhibition prospects were uncertain… but then, two old friends helped bring the project to a new level of reality: Jerry Hultin, who spearheaded the establishment of Smart Cities New York, and Patrick Bermingham, who has recently re-emerged from his family’s heavy construction consultancy to concentrate on the kind of art-engineering mash-ups we want to build more of.
Working with Patrick (a potent mix of gumption and brilliance) and Jerry (plus his terrific team), we were able not only to make more complete sense of the real possibilities and requirements of a structure of this kind for 42nd street, from structural strategies to use cases, business cases for adjacent building owners, and a rough construction budget, but also to develop an off-the-wall scale model and storyboard for Smart Cities 2018 at Pier 36.
In the course of ten days, a selection of the concept images were blown up, captioned in the speech-bubble idiom of a graphic novel, printed onto flame resistant foamboard, assembled into a light but strong 40% scale model of a sample section of the proposed structure, driven down from Toronto in a truck six inches longer than the biggest component, and assembled on time for the opening of Smart Cities 2018:
Photo: William Cross Bermingham
It’s worth noting that the conversation with Jerry had begun around his idea for an art program for Smart Cities, back in 2016. As exhibited, the piece could be taken as a crossover sculpture/graphics installation (codename Origami Manga), or as it was more often by professional visitors to SCNY this past May, taken literally as a practical and buildable proposal for this and other “smart” high-density public realm upgrades. By the time we were done, that was actually true too. We’re following up with a couple of very large and interesting partners on next steps toward full realization.
Special thanks for support above and beyond: CG Graphics and Owen Ford in Toronto; Empire Entertainment and Global Futures Group in New York.