​Immigration-Themed Valentine’s Day Sculpture Pops Up in Times Square

“We Were Strangers Once Too,” a public art installation by the Office of Creative Research, is now on display in New York for Valentine’s Day.

Sydney Franklin Sydney Franklin

Each year, around Valentine’s Day, an eye-catching public art installation pops up in the middle Times Square — a project presupposed to unite the city in love and equality. Now in its ninth year, the Times Square Valentine Heart Design competition, held by Times Square Arts and Urban Design Forum, has chosen a design that not only spotlights the holiday, but brings attention to the hottest topic of the year thus far: immigration.

In true 2017 fashion, the winning project by Brooklyn-based Office of Creative Research is a public data sculpture that showcases immigrants as the heart of New York City. “We Were Strangers Once, Too,” inspired by President Obama’s 2014 speech on immigration reform, went up this week in front of the TKTS booth and will be on display until early March.

Rendering via the Office of Creative Research

“We wanted to make a strong political statement in the busiest space in the world,” said Jer Thorp, co-founder and principal of the Office of Creative Research. “Times Square is a weird place where you can feel really small because of the gigantic scale of it, but in some ways, you’re very intimate with a whole bunch of strangers.”

The project highlights the role that immigrants have played in the founding, developing and continuing success of the city, according to the architects. Using slices of data from the 2015 American Community Survey, the designers created a sculpture with 33 metal poles, each inscribed and colored to represent the national origins and shifting populations of foreign-born NYC residents. A wider perspective of the tight-knit grouping of poles reveals the red and pink color blocking as a large heart.

With over a half a million people passing through Times Square each day, the world-renowned pedestrian plaza is the perfect backdrop for this poignant piece of design to carry out its simple but strong message to locals and tourists alike.

“Even if you are on the other side of the immigration argument,” Thorp said, “it would be pretty hard to walk through that sculpture and not find a connection. The network of people and immigrants in New York City is really dense.”

Genevieve Hoffman, a lead designer on the project with Thorp, hopes this “heart-piece” will continue the current conversation about diversity and inclusion as the lives of immigrant populations across the country are being threatened by today’s political climate.

“I think the piece will serve in this moment of time as a way for our studio, and hopefully the city, to really rally around the direction we hope our country continues to move toward and not away from.”

To view the other final proposals of the 2017 Times Square Valentine’s Heart Design, head this way.

Images courtesy of the Times Square Alliance