Love Letters will be unveiled at 11am on February 10th, 2021 at Father Duffy Square, between 46th and 47th Streets, and the installation will remain on view from February 10 to March 10, 2021.
Soft-Firm’s Love Letters is the winner of the 13th annual Love in Times Square Design Competition, curated by Reddymade. Primarily composed of repurposed and donated plywood from building façades across New York City, Love Letters is a large-scale sculptural installation that invites a diversity of public participation themed around love and notions of interdependence, resilience, and inclusivity.
Love Letters winds across Duffy Square creating four integrated spaces that unite as one folding surface, which from above presents two interlocking hearts. The “Soap Box” offers outward facing seating that doubles as a stage for public speaking and performance. The “Love Seat” provides a more secluded bench for a pair, while the “Chapel” supports two tiers of seating for a small group to meet safely and view Times Square from an elevated perspective. The enclosure then rises to eye level in the “Wishing Well” as a space for meditation and reflection on the spirit of the city. Love Letters bestows an outdoor respite that allows for visual connection from a safe distance.
“We are thrilled to win the 13th annual Times Square Arts Design Competition during a year when love, solidarity, and justice have come into focus as essential for the health and resilience of our communities. 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.”
— Lexi Tsien and Talitha Liu of Soft-Firm
Now in its 13th year — in response to the unprecedented challenges our community has faced throughout 2020 — the themes of the Love in Times Square Design Competition have naturally expanded to include reflections on interdependence, collective resilience, and inclusivity. In addition, plywood was introduced as a material constraint to reflect on its presence as a jarring yet familiar visual in our city’s landscape throughout 2020. As an exterior barrier, plywood has come to signal unrest and uncertainty throughout New York City as business districts here and across the country have boarded up their storefronts due to economic hardship brought on by the pandemic, anticipation of protest, or both.
Plywood panels are alternated with mirrored windows in Love Letters, allowing the surface to shift with the visual landscape of Times Square, while creating opportunities for open views between spaces. Safety net — a material sympathetic to the language of rebuilding — is interwoven within the plywood, serving as a poetic armature for an outdoor respite.
Love Letters invites the public to participate in the installation by leaving their own love letters within the sculpture. Continuing the ancient custom of votive offerings — the ritual of tying a ribbon to a wishing tree, or a love lock to a bridge — visitors are invited to tie a wish, a memento, or an artifact onto the netted underlay, such as letters of protest, a letter to a lost loved one, or a message of appreciation to essential workers. The public can layer on their own meanings to the plywood storefront, each an author of the installation. Over time, Love Letters will become a memorial and a beacon: a symbol of solidarity and hope.
The 2021 Love in Times Square Design Competition is presented in partnership with Reddymade, founded by the 2019 winner of the competition and award-winning architect, Suchi Reddy.
“Soft-Firm’s winning proposal for the 2021 Times Square design competition is a poetic exploration of the transformations that 2020 wrought on our understanding of our communities. Love Letters is a beautiful architectonic expression of the line dividing our private and communal selves, explored through the new significance that plywood as a material has acquired in our collective psyche.”
— Suchi Reddy, Founder of Reddymade
This year’s material constraint of plywood was developed in collaboration with and inspired by worthless studios and their Plywood Projection Project. Fabrication consultation was provided by UAP Company.
The proposals for the 2021 Times Square Design Competition were reviewed by a selection committee that included Victor Calise, Commissioner, Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities; Kevin Davey, Director, UAP Company; Wendy Feuer, former Assistant Commissioner Urban Design + Art + Wayfinding, NYC DOT; Neil Hamamoto, Founder, worthless studios; Kendal Henry, Director, NYC Percent for Art; Elizabeth Masella, Senior Public Art Coordinator, NYC Parks; Suchi Reddy, Founder, Reddymade (and 2019 Valentine Heart Design Competition winner); Tim Tompkins, former President, Times Square Alliance; Kim Yao, President, AIA New York.
The other architecture and design firms invited to submit proposals included Office of Tangible Space, Present Forms, Studio 397, and Studio Cooke John. See the proposals from all of the invitees by clicking here.
Previous winners of the Times Square Valentine Heart Design include: MODU, Eric Forman Studio(2020); Suchi Reddy / Reddymade (2019); Aranda/Lasch + Marcelo Coelho (2018); The Office for Creative Research (2017); Collective-LOK (2016); Stereotank (2015); Young Projects (2014); Situ Studio (2013); BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) (2012); Freecell (2011); Moorhead & Moorhead (2010).
Fabrication of Love Letters is provided by Pink Sparrow. Additional support is provided by Layr and Barry Cordage.
Plywood was generously donated by Empire State Realty Trust and local Times Square business, Columbia Property Trust.
Support for Love Letters is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
Soft-Firm is an interdisciplinary practice and flexible platform off which to expand design hunches into architectural ideas, spaces, and artifacts. Soft-firm is speculative and concrete: taking a playful and lo-fi approach to visual perception, elemental forms, and material contrast. Using design as a tool of activism, Soft-Firm engages collaborative and progressive programs to promote equity in institutions and the architectural practice as a whole. The practice has designed interactive exhibitions and installations, residential and commercial projects, and published work in design magazines and academic journals. The Love Letters project team includes Lexi Tsien, Talitha Liu, and Tanvi Marina Rao with fabrication by Pink Sparrow, and contributions from Barry Cordage and Layr.
A leader in today’s global design culture, Reddymade Architecture and Design was founded by Suchi Reddy in 2002. Since its inception, the firm has been lauded for its formal experimentation, its imaginative use of color, and passion for innovative materials. Based in New York, the firm’s practice spans the fields of architecture, design, installation art, and sculpture. Its diverse portfolio of projects includes public installations, adaptive reuse of historic buildings, large-scale commercial spaces, and residential projects— from single family homes to micro-apartments and prefab architecture. rmdny.com
worthless studios has a mission to provide space, materials, technical assistance and resources for aspiring artists of all backgrounds to realize their artistic visions. Founded in 2016 by Neil Hamamoto and incorporated as a nonprofit in 2019, worthless studios is a platform committed to supporting artist’s fabrication needs and producing creatively engaging public art. Since its inception, worthless studios has produced two large scale public artworks and has supported artists in a number of different mediums including sculpture, painting, photography and performance. worthlessstudios.org
UAP is one of the world’s leading organizations in art and design consultancy, fabrication and manufacturing. Co-founded by brothers Matthew and Daniel Tobin in 1993, UAP was built upon a mission of extending the capabilities of creatives and collaborators to create objects, spaces and places that transform the world, inspiring and connecting others. UAP offers a range of skills, services, technologies and capabilities that span everything from strategy and concept creation, to design, production and on-site installation. With core skills in curatorship, design and construction, UAP works across all parts of the creative process: from commissioning, concept design and design development, to engineering, fabrication and delivery. UAP delivers bespoke creative works and solutions for the public and private realms. What began as a local family practice has since evolved into a dynamic global network with three key studios and workshops in New York, Brisbane and Shanghai, and satellite offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Singapore. uapcompany.com