Today’s scarcity of public spaces due to rampant privatization leaves little room for truly enjoyable outdoor respites. In order to produce a unique interpretation of future public space, our design group was challenged to explore the dynamic networked relationships between living and non-living elements. While there have been many points of confluence traditionally between the media-based digital realm and the architecture of open space, the specificity of these relationships and how they are embedded in the urban tapestry often remains unrecognized within the discourses of both disciplines. This installation will fuse that relationship and produce an integrated life-sized garden-like artifact. An NYU student driven full scale group project will be installed outdoors for public display in Times Square for the NYCXDesign festival and Global Design NYU in May 2016.

The “Times Square Electronic Garden” project initiated a conversation about climate change, energy use and green urban spaces. Designed and fabricated by New York University students, this earth bomb or “seed bomb” featured speakers and live sensors among the plants that connected to our URL. The idea was to “re-nature” Times Square so that the public can contemplate new natures within our cities. We invited people to explore soothing living vegetative surfaces and recognize the stark contrast of their hyper-electrified surroundings. The students designed and built an open central sphere for visitors to circulate through so that they could encounter a microcosm of hanging gardens. Around the sphere we created a greenscape of serpentine living benches for rest, gathering, and contemplation. The whole project, start-to-finish, was erected and removed in a 24 hour period on May 10th, 2016. It was a place to reimagine Times Square’s consumer culture into a truly sumptuous environmental future.

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Early Concept rendering by Theo Mandin-Lee

When we finally saw it with real people on site it was such a joy!!

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This was project was developed within a 10 week class structure. In class we were divided to groups and presented our ideas.

Leslie Ruckman, Gal Nissim and I presented an idea to create an installation of suspended living grass using pantyhose, married ideas of the artists Ernesto Neto:

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the duo Bart Hess and Lucy Mcrae:

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We imagined it to look like this:

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We new we wanted the installation to react to people so we decided to make the grass “sense” touch and react with an output of light and sound. We wanted the plants to reflect back at people to encourage them to get closer to living beings and contemplate about their relation to nature. I suggested to use optic fibres and to insert it inside the grass to have the LED light design come out of the  grassy pantyhose in a way that it will look as if  it belongs with the grass.

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To create the installation we need to have a structure to hold it all together and we decided to divide into several teams; Structure, Grassy Hose, Sensors, Tendrils and Video team.

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Together with the Grassy Hose and Sensor teams I developed the concept and realized it;  grew the grass inside the pantyhose,  planned the circuits, wiring & optic fibers insertion in the soil,  soldered and wired the electronic boards. To realize the project took about 3 (intense!) weeks giving the grass time to grow inside the pantyhose.

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The interaction was based on capacity change that happens when people touched the grass. we coded the Arduino using capacitive touch sensor breakout board to react with turning on LED bright lights and create a sound. The sound changed based on the number of grass balls that were touched. The more people touching grassy balls, the more intricate the sound became by having 7 different sound tracks activated according to the change in capacity.
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it was such a joy to see that the grass grew in time!

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We covered the structure with a pattern I designed, inspired by the Fern plant, and was laser cut on large 1/8” foam:

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My teams worked all night after the structure team finished building.

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The installation was up and running at 6AM, and this our 360 celebration shoot inside:

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It was an extremely rewarding experience, special thanks to all of the following:

Co-Principal Investigators: Mitchell Joachim, Louise Harpman, Peder Anker.

Film Media: Keith Miller.

NYU ITP: Namira Abdulgani, Kylin Chen, Ella Dagan, Jordan Frand, Michelle Hessel, Renata Kuba, Gal Nissim, Isabel Paez, Tigran Paravyan, Lutfiadi Rahmanto, Leslie Ruckman, Abhishek Singh, Edson Soares, Katie Temrowski, Jed Watson, Yan Zhao, Yang Zhao.

NYU Gallatin: Theo Mandin-Lee, Jordan Marks, Max Mezzomo, Valerie Mu, Shel Orock, Alex Selz,Henry Wang.

NYU Staff: Karim Ahmed, Jenny Kijowski, Nicholas P Likos, Lillian J Warner, Matthew Tarpley,Shandor Hassan

Sound Designer & Producer: Shai Pelled

and John Salveto at Metalform Studio

Sponsored by: GDNYU, NYU Gallatin School, Times Square Alliance, NYCxDESIGN, NYU ITP.