Dezeen Magazine

Flint Collective illuminates New York storefronts to form outdoor street installation

Art and design collective Flint Collective used neon lights to transform eight empty storefronts in New York for the Open installation, which is shortlisted in the architectural lighting design category of Dezeen Awards 2021.

Named Open, the temporary project was a creative response to the coronavirus pandemic. It was designed to re-inject colour and light into the East Village neighbourhood in Manhattan, which went dark as the city shut down.

Red and pink lights installed in a shop
The Open lighting installation by Flint Collective NYC took over empty storefronts in Manhattan's East Village

Flint Collective NYC created eight site-specific light installations inside vacant storefronts, turning the neighbourhood into an illuminated, lively area once again.

The designers chose saturated lights in shapes such as the moon, the horizon and the ocean in the belief that these are the "universally understood language of nature". Deep reds, calming purples and hot pinks – colours associated with sunsets – were also used.

A woman sits in front of a window with purple lights
The collective launched the project in response to the coronavirus pandemic

"After months of covid conditions and confronting social justice realities, we were able to transform our experience of the street from a place of threat and protest to one of discovery, conversation and positive projection," Flint Collective NYC founder Leela Shanker.

"There was an attitude we felt compelled to share of Open potential; an antidote to the sense of life closing in."

A shopfront with purple lighting
The designers used the empty shopfronts to display lights in shapes such as the moon

As part of the project, the collective created a map of the storefronts which locals could use to navigate their way around the public installation, "to bring people out of their lock-down interiors and share the streets".

During a time when many were only permitted to leave the house to go for a daily walk, Open gave residents the chance to take a slightly more adventurous route which was illuminated at night.

"Open's series of works invited people to imagine, and look forward to, what may come next to the vacant storefronts nearest them," Shanker explained.

"Encouraging people to move through the neighbourhood was an opportunity to put in motion thought of the future beyond the current place and time."

A storefront with graffiti and a light installation
Locals were given maps to help them navigate the street installations while walking through the city

To create the installations, the collective drew on the help of local artists, designers, volunteers and community organisations – giving the project an additional social element.

According to the collective, this communal effort reflected the "resilient and positive nature of New Yorkers".

Other design projects created in response to the coronavirus pandemic include social distancing screens by UNIT Fabrications and a hat by Veronica Toppino that aims to help shield people.