2021 Times Square Valentine Heart Design Competition Winner is #LoveLetters by Soft-Firm




Image renderings courtesy Times Square Arts and Soft-Firm

It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without the Times Square Valentine Heart Design Competition ~ and this years winner is Love Letters created by Soft-Firm, curated by Reddymade. Take a look at the installation that will be unveiled on February 10th at 11am on Father Duffy Square.

Soft-Firm’s Love Letters is 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.

Image renderings courtesy Times Square Arts and Soft-Firm

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.

Image renderings  courtesy Times Square Arts and Soft-Firm

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

Image renderings courtesy Times Square Arts and Soft-Firm

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.

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.

Love Letters by Soft Firm will be on view from February 10th through March 10, 2021 at Father Duffy Square between 46th and 47th Streets.

Check out the 2021 finalists for the 2021 Times Square Valentine Hart Design Competition.