People have long complained that Downtown is becoming a playground for the ultra-rich, but now the neighborhood’s office campus has gotten an actual playground for the ultra-rich, as well as workers, students, and whoever else happens by.
Mega-developer Forest City Ratner commissioned West Coast installation artist Sam Falls to build the art-piece-cum-all-ages-play-equipment on the Myrtle Avenue Promenade that runs through MetroTech Center. A company honcho said that the new amenity is emblematic of Forest City’s transition away from the siege mentality it had in the early 1990s.
“When it first opened, MetroTech was a kind of fortress looking inward,” said David Berliner, chief operating officer for Forest City. “And now we’re inviting people in.”
The set of sculptures is called “Light Over Time” and includes a pair of seesaws, a maze, and oversized wind-chimes, all made from brightly painted aluminum. It also includes a heat-sensitive bench that changes colors when people sit on it. The loud colors stand out against their surroundings, but their shapes are meant to complement the hard lines of the surrounding metal-and-glass towers, said a spokeswoman for the Public Art Fund, which curated the exhibition.
“The minimalism that Sam works with mirrors the architecture, and so does his use of industrial materials,” Andria Hickey said.
The seesaws, which feature open boxes at each end to collect rain, were an immediate hit with passersby, getting kid-tested and mother-approved hours within hours of opening on Tuesday. Bushwick resident Crystal Mullen’s 6-year-old son ran straight for one seesaw the moment he saw it.
“I was just thinking they should put a playground here,” Mullen said, watching her son ride the ride. “This should stay permanently.”
The luxury-housing construction boom of recent years has brought thousands of new residents Downtown, some of them with families, and the Public Arts Fund wanted to give them something to explore, Hickey said.
“There are a lot more kids around here then there were 10 years ago,” she said. “We thought about how to make work that actually integrates the space. And work that makes people use and interact with it.”
Making the art publicly available is important to the artist, too.
“It’s kind of what the ideal is,” Falls said. “A democratic, public space.”
This is far from the first whimsical public art project in MetroTech. The previous installation, titled “Just Two of Us” and consisting of 18 psychedelically colored, rock-shaped sculptures, was unbolted and carted off two weeks ago.