Lisa Little, Kristy Velasco, Aly Cornelius, Jack Stewart-Castner, Eunice Roh
Van Alen Institute and NYC DOT Competition
Vertebrae’s entry for the New York City Chinatown Gateway competition addresses the city’s lack of a unifying iconic marker and symbol. Solid Haze proposes a contemporary, abstract version of the ornate symbols currently standing as Chinatown markers.
The tall (forty-foot) volumetric archway form cants southeast, gesturing toward the center of Chinatown, simultaneously recognizable and majestic, but also elusive. Sketched out in space, like an artist’s pencil might search out a shape on paper, the gateway changes appearance with the viewer’s position sometimes solid, sometime ethereal. The abstracted symbol embodies cultural diversity, the very blurring of contemporary Chinese and American culture, and the dissolution of boundaries between Chinatown and its adjacent neighbors, Little Italy and the Lower East Side. Through its scale and visual tectonics, the sculpture acts as gateway, neighborhood marker, meeting place, and social media opportunity, giving Chinatown an identifying icon while simultaneously giving New York City an additional tourist destination.