“We Were Strangers Once Too”, the 2017 Times Square Valentine Heart winner, shows love to NYC’s immigrants

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A public data sculpture that affirms that New York City’s immigrants are at the heart of the city will come to Times Square this February


“We Were Strangers Once Too” by hybrid research group The Office for Creative Research reminds us yet again that immigrants make America great, and that upholding the values of showing love and respect for all is as important as ever…The [public data sculpture serves]as a small yet impactful reminder of the diverse communities that make NYC what it is.

Times Square Arts has announced that The Office for Creative Research is the winner of this year’s annual Times Square Valentine Heart Design Competition, curated by the Urban Design Forum. Over the last nine years, the Times Square Alliance has invited architecture and design firms to submit proposals for a romantic public art installation celebrating Valentine’s Day in Times Square. This year’s winning design, We Were Strangers Once Too, will be unveiled on February 7, and remain on view for approximately one month at Father Duffy Square, between 46th and 47th Streets and a few feet away from TKTS and the Red Steps.

We Were Strangers Once Too is a public data sculpture highlighting the role that immigrants have played in the founding, development, and continued vibrancy of New York City. Data from the 2015 American Community Survey takes visual, sculptural form in 33 metal poles, inscribed and hued to represent the national origins and shifting populations of foreign-born NYC residents. As visitors travel around the sculpture to a designated observation point, their perspective shifts until the individual color blocks of red and pink resolve into an iconic heart.


Conceived as both a striking visual object and as a point of dialogue and conversation, We Were Strangers Once Too champions the value of diversity in the city, and specifically the city’s immigrant populations, new and old, at a time when they are increasingly under siege.

Other invited finalists for the 2017 Times Square Valentine Heart Design included: AWED Alan Waxman Ecosocial Design, Ekene Ijeoma, Future Firm with Andrew Heumann, Jaklitsch / Gardner Architects, McEwen Studio | V. Mitch McEwen, Partner & Partners with Annie Barrett, Young New Yorkers. This year’s competition was curated by the Urban Design Forum.

The Office for Creative Research, the artists, said, “Now more than ever New Yorkers need to stand up and say we are proud to live in a city of immigrants. We Were Strangers Once Too is our way to acknowledge and say thank you to the diverse communities of NYC for their many contributions historically, currently and into the future.”

Tim Tompkins, President of the Times Square Alliance, said, “For the ninth annual Valentine Heart Design Competition, The Office for Creative Research designed an installation that celebrates the true heart of New York City — the people. We look forward to watching visitors to Times Square discover this tribute to the diversity of the individuals and communities who have decided to make New York their home.”

Daniel McPhee, Executive Director, Urban Design Forum, said, “We Were Strangers Once Too is a powerful display of our city’s vibrant immigrant communities, and an important reminder that our city should always welcome new New Yorkers.”

NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, said, “I am excited to add We Were Strangers Once Too to the greatest public art gallery in the world, NYC Parks. New York City is now and always will be a proud city of immigrants – and this interactive piece brings to Duffy Square a celebration and exploration of migration and multiculturalism at a crucial time in our nation’s history. Public art nourishes the soul and has a profound impact on the way we experience our shared spaces in a bustling city, and we are pleased to partner with the Times Square Alliance and Urban Design Forum to bring it to life.”

The proposals for the 2017 Valentine Heart Design Competition were reviewed by representatives from the Times Square Arts Advisory Committee and Sherry Dobbin, Director, Times Square Arts; Ifeoma Ebo, Strategic Initiative Specialist, NYC Department of Design and Construction; Emily Colasacco, Director of Public Art, Department of Transportation, City of New York; Abby Hamlin, Founder, Hamlin Ventures; Hugh Hardy, Principal, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture; Kendal Henry, Director of Percent for Art, Department of Cultural Affairs; Jennifer Lantzas, Public Art Coordinator, Department of Parks, City of New York; Justin Garrett Moore, Executive Director, Public Design Commission; Tim Tompkins, President of the Times Square Alliance; Daniel McPhee, Executive Director, Urban Design Forum; Claire Weisz, Partner-In-Charge, WXY Studio; Bradley Samuels, Partner, SITU Studio (Past Winner); and Bryan Young, Principal, Young Projects (Past Winner).

Previous winners of the Times Square Valentine Heart Design include: Collective-LOK (2016); Stereotank (2015); Young Projects (2014); Situ Studio (2013); BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) (2012); Freecell (2011); Moorhead & Moorhead (2010); and Gage / Clemenceau Architects (2009).


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