A pavilion within a landscape that looks out in all directions

by Valentina Ieva
17 Love 4433 Visits

'Nova Flatiron Holiday Installation' was commissioned by the Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership through a competition held by the Van Alen Institute.


Copyright: Alan Tansey



The installation by SOTFlab takes its initial inspiration from the traditional gazebo (“I shall gaze”) as a pavilion within in a landscape that looks out in all directions.

Copyright: Alan Tansey 


Rather than looking in all directions we used the rich historical context of the Flatiron Plaza site to frame the various landmark buildings and pedestrians through a series of scopes. The scopes create a pavilion that is different from all sides at street level, but from the views above looks like a seven pointed star. The structure is made up of a lightweight aluminum that gains its strength through a cell-like structure similar to a sponge or soap bubbles. Each cell acts like both a stone and part of a three dimensional truss.

Copyright: Alan Tansey 

Copyright: Alan Tansey 


Each cell is unique in exposing a crystalline interior. On the interior the aluminum structure is clad in acrylic laminated with 3M Dichroic Film creating a kaleidoscopic affect. The dichroic film changes color and reflectivity depending on the viewing angle. The dichroic along with the mirrored finished composite aluminum panels cladding the exterior turns each cone into a pedestrian scale kaleidoscope that remixes the surrounding buildings, urban context and pedestrians in fun and unexpected ways. At night the aluminum composite exterior reflects the light of passing vehicles.

Copyright: 3M

Copyright: 3M


The overall structure is made of a modular system we developed in the studio with the help of ARUP. Each cell is made of two dimensional panels that get attached together to form a three dimensional cell. Each cell acts like a stone. These cells come together to form a structurally stable dome in the center with each scope acting as an arch.

Copyright: 3M


The seven arches come together to create a very stable structure that has at its base a larger platonic half sphere, but also exhibits the nuances and idiosyncrasies of the cell-like system. This gives us both a very stable shape and a surface with many different angles to take advantage of the kaleidoscopic affects produced by the 3M Dichroic Film.

Copyright: Van Alen Institute


“This project is a fantastic opportunity to engage with a local site and designer,” said David van der Leer, Executive Director of Van Alen Institute. “SOFTlab’s Nova offers a playful and unusual perspective of the landmarks and street life surrounding the plaza that will be a visually stimulating and interactive outdoor experience for the holiday season.”


“Using a mix of optical materials, our design creates a human scale kaleidoscope, remixing the surrounding iconic buildings with color, light, and the reflections of pedestrians,” said Michael Szivos, Founder and Principal at SOFTlab.



“Although our design reads as an iconic and festive figure from above, the experience at the pedestrian level is very different. The exterior gives way to a crystal-like, mirror-surfaced interior that looks different from all sides.”


“Design is always about creating magical experiences, and we’re excited to see 3M materials inspire SOFTlab to connect imagination with space and community for this year’s winning Flatiron installation,” said Eric Quint, Chief Design Officer at 3M.

“Collaborative creativity is what sparks ongoing new possibilities in our world of design; the Nova project demonstrates this, transforming 3M optical materials for safety and light management into a new context of art and architecture in the heart of the Flatiron District."


Cover image copyright: Alan Tansey


Supported by: 3M and ARUP 



    • Valentina Ieva

      Valentina Ieva


      Bari / Italy

      Laureata in Ingegneria edile-architettura, giornalista per professione, web writer per diletto. Amante di architettura, design, fotografia e libri di carta. Dipendente dai social, Instagram e InstaStories su tutti. Affamata di vita, viaggi e storie da scoprire. Qualunque forma d'arte mi affascina da sempre e non posso pensare una vita senza: emozioni forti, immaginazione, buona musica, cucina pugliese, sole e gatti. Per dirla con le parole di Battiato, non potrei vivere senza: ‘un soffio al)

    Nova Flatiron Holiday Installation 4

    Nova Flatiron Holiday Installation

    New York / United States