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Olafur Eliasson: The Collectivity Project on the High Line in New York


May 25, 2015
by Canadian Architect

The Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s art is driven by his interests in perception, movement, embodied experience, and feelings of self. Eliasson strives to make the concerns of art relevant to society at large. Art, for him, is a crucial means for turning thinking into doing in the world. Eliasson’s diverse works – in sculpture, painting, photography, film, and installations – have been exhibited widely throughout the world. Not limited to the confines of the museum and gallery, his practice engages the broader public sphere through architectural projects and interventions in civic space, such as his construction of four waterfalls at different sites along the East River in New York City. Presented by Public Art Fund, this public art project introduced a staggering juxtaposition of natural and man-made forces. In 1995, he founded Studio Olafur Eliasson, which today encompasses some 75 craftsmen, specialized technicians, architects, archivists, administrators, programmers, art historians and cooks.

For Panorama, Eliasson presents The Collectivity Project, an installation of white LEGO bricks that features an imaginary cityscape conceived and designed by the public. All visitors to New York’s High Line from May 29-September 30, 2015 are welcome to play with the installation, building and rebuilding the structures over time. As the inevitable entropy of the piece begins to soften the hard edges of the designed structures, and mounds of loose pieces gather in the corners between buildings, a beautiful collective creation takes form. Installed in the growing shadow of the real estate development of Hudson Yards, the mutable, human-scale artwork provides a compelling counterpoint to the concrete-and-steel towers that form the project’s backdrop. The Collectivity Project has previously been installed in public squares in Tirana, Albania (2005); Oslo, Norway (2006); and Copenhagen, Denmark (2008).

Friends of the High Line in collaboration with local non-profit organizations, will offer free weekly public programs and educational activities. These programs will further activate the installation, by inviting the public to interact with the project and learn more about topics of urbanism, architecture, and the growth of our cities. Kids and family programs, teens and adult workshops, and other public programs will animate the installation, generating a democratic public plaza where the community meets, learns, and exchanges ideas.

For the first time, and unique to the context of the High Line, a selection of architectural firms involved in current or ongoing projects in the surrounding neighbourhood – BIG–Bjarke Ingels Group, David M. Schwarz Architects, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, James Corner Field Operations, OMA New York, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Robert A.M. Stern Architects, Selldorf Architects, SHoP, Steven Holl Architects – have been invited to collaborate by building one visionary structure or construction for the opening of the project. In the cooperative spirit of the project, these initial buildings will become part of the collective architecture that the public builds over the four months of the project’s installation.

For more information, please visit http://art.thehighline.org/project/olafureliasson/


olafur eliasson, the collectivity project, 2005. installation view at 3rd tirana biennale, albania, 2005. photo by olafur eliasson. courtesy the artist; neugerriemschneider, berlin; and tanya bonakdar gallery, new york.
olafur eliasson, the collectivity project, 2005. installation view at 3rd tirana biennale, albania, 2005. photo by olafur eliasson. courtesy the artist; neugerriemschneider, berlin; and tanya bonakdar gallery, new york.


Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada's only monthly design publication, Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.
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