Art in transit: the Fulton Centre in New York

 Sky Reflector-Net (2014) © James Carpenter Design Associates, Grimshaw Architects, and Arup, Fulton Center. Commissioned by Metropolitan Transportation Authority

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The second edition of the Art in Transit workshop took place at the beginning of December in London. This unique event was not only an opportunity to listen and learn from experts but also to exchange knowledge on art and to take the time to reflect about its importance in our daily lives, in culture and in public transport.

Different questions were addressed during the day ranging from the benefit of integrated art programmes in public transport to the maintenance of art works and cultural assets.

The integration of art and architecture was also amongst the discussed topics. Amongst the presented projects, one of the most notable was the Fulton Centre in New York which opened last November and was part of the rebuilding of lower Manhattan after 9/11. This project created an opportunity to fully incorporate art into architecture.

The arts programme at the Fulton Centre enables architects and engineers to create projects in vast covered spaces with view corridors. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority network stated that “the artwork should strive for integration and orientation, rather than decoration, and participate in a unified vision with the project’s architecture”. 

In line with this, Jamie Carpenter, a design firm based in New York, created a cable net structure lined with optical aluminium perforated panels that was hung from the ceiling in a metro station in New York. The artwork was the result of a true collaboration where art, architecture and engineering are able to progress together and fully integrate the overall design of the structure.

The “Sky Reflector-Net’s reflective perforated-aluminium panels are designed so that whatever the time of day or night the effect is welcoming and awe-inspiring,” say Sandra Bloodworth and William Ayres in their book called New York’s underground art museum. The panels’ aluminum surface reflects about 95% of the light that strikes it, Mr. Carpenter said, but it is not a mirror. Instead, the surface is stippled, which ever so slightly diffuses the light. The amount of perforation varies, thus creating an incredible array of shapes and light.

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