The project architects, di Domenico Partners and the artists, Allan Wexler and Ellen Wexler, were challenged with working together to create a special place of arrival in the entry pavilion that reaches from the street level down to the ticket office, waiting room and LIRR and NYC Transit subways.
"This terminal reminds us of how central the transit system is to all of our lives," said Jay H. Walder, MTA Chairman and CEO. "It provides a 21st century customer experience for the thousands of subway and rail riders who use it to enter our system. They are met with a soaring atrium that not only brings natural light to the interior but an exterior that restores a civic presence' to this important Brooklyn community."
The artists were commissioned by MTA Arts for Transit, which oversees the installation of permanent public art throughout the MTA's 5,000-square-mile network of subways, buses and commuter trains. The Wexlers, a husband and wife team, proposed using the vocabulary of architectural materials that appear throughout the subway and railroad complex into a two-story sculptural balcony that visually evokes the adventure of travel. Titled "Overlook," the work references scenic overlooks often found in national parks, where travelers are encouraged to pause and take in the larger scene. Just as the grand clock in Grand Central Terminal, "Overlook" is destined to become a meeting place and local landmark, through which more than 25,000 LIRR passengers and 31,000 NYC Transit riders pass each day.
"This vantage point was created as a collaborative effort combining our design that placed the wall between two sweeping stairways and the artists' vision of morphing that structural wall into an outcropping of rocks," said architect John di Domenico.
Allan Wexler commented, "We sought to create the experience of viewing an urban public space as if it were a nature setting, using granite tiles mathematically pixilated to create nooks and crannies similar to those found in rock walls. Our public work seeks to engage the people who use the space, creating a rich experience that resonates over time."
Ellen Wexler said, "We wanted to create a space where one can stop and take in the dynamic energy, which is as exciting as stopping to take in the Grand Canyon or other major vista. Carving out a place for the "experience" of pausing and people watching to happen within this great civic architecture was our particular creative challenge."
The Brooklyn communities that surround the terminal-Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Downtown Brooklyn and Park Slope-have witnessed tremendous growth in the past decade, particularly among artists and families.
The Entry Pavilion meets the MTA's architectural design goals to provide clear paths of travel to the adjacent retail plaza, connections to 10 subway lines and quick access from the street to the LIRR ticket office, waiting room and tracks. A large display board listing departures and arrivals is installed below the overlook, providing convenient information to commuters who become the choreographed dance to those overlooking from above the artwork.
The Wexlers' use of granite squares to form the overlook wall relate this monumental public art work to the work of George Trakas which appears in passageways that connect subway lines somewhere in the transit complex. Trakas uses granite and stone to demarcate areas, and nautical iconography to reference the meeting place of the connected Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street subway stations.
"Adding a layer of geographical reference to the complex's series of public art is a subtle, but important, link that connects the art works to the architecture and the conceptual play on the travel experience," said Sandra Bloodworth, Director, MTA Arts for Transit. "The best public art is about place, and the Wexlers take the idea of travel and capture that moment of excitement when you pause and take in the view."