At ground level at the new Atlantic Ave. Terminal, Allen and Ellen Wexler’s “Overlook” inspires an outdoor pause. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak.
Grand train terminals have long been prime people-watching areas. The buildings are alive with those who scurry to and from trains, those who are waiting for friends and loved ones to arrive, those counting down the minutes until they can head home and those simply enjoying a public space. Stepping back to observe the pace of life in motion is one of the pleasures of commuting life.
A few weeks ago, the MTA finally cut the ribbon on its new terminal building at Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn. Over budget and past deadline, the new building garnered praise for its airy inside and state-of-the-art facilities. Inside the terminal, at ground level but overlooking the lower level is the MTA’s latest Arts for Transit installation, and it is evocative of that people-watching tradition of train terminals.]
Early last week, I took a tour of the building and spoke to the artists behind the “Overlook,” a granite-and-glass installation that brings a sense of calm and tranquility to an otherwise busy building. It is, in the words of Allen Wexler, half of the husband-and-wife team behind the piece, supposed to represent “the intersection between nature and city” in an urban environment.
The artists, pictured above, talked to me about their design process and the inspiration for the piece. The two of them worked closely with John di Domenico, the architect behind the new terminal building, to construct something that would seem both natural for the terminal but also unique for the space. It is a site-specific installation meant to evoke a scenic overlook at a national park, and it transforms the upper level into a spot for simply watching urban nature.
The Wexlers took images of national park overlooks and came up with a fractal computerized design. Each granite panel is connected to the others via straight lines to turn this into what the artists called “a pxilated iconic scenic overlook.”
“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,” Allan Wexler said. “Our public work seeks to engage the people who use the space, creating a rich experience that resonates over time.”
In the end, the MTA hopes that their new installation creates a meeting space at the station as well. With over 25,000 LIRR passengers and 31,000 subway travelers passing through the new terminal each day, the “Overlook” is ready to become a local landmark. “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,” di Domenico said.
Hanging above the ticket area, the waiting room and two grand staircases, it’s bound to become the terminal’s prime people-watching spot as well.
After the jump, a slideshow of scenes from the new Atlantic Ave. Terminal. Click on any of the photos in the post to enlarge.