From May 5-12, Jackson, Wyoming-based CLB Architects took center stage at New York’s Times Square.
They did it with a newly fabricated, non-denominational chapel with a tree at its center, one they call FILTER. It was selected to be part of the Design Pavilion at NYCxDesign’s 10th Anniversary Festival.
“It was a competition to create something with a message for Times Square,” says CLB principal Eric Logan
The antithesis of the rowdy, boisterous tourist mecca, FILTER offered celebrants a quiet moment for an inward, contemplative perspective. “It was a comment on the state of the planet and what humans are doing to it, and to be drawn in and think about what we see and feel,” he says.
It also offered the architects, whose work is best known for helping define the modern Western vernacular, the chance to be seen and experienced at the center of one of the nation’s busiest urban intersections.
“There were two relevant threads,” he says. “Number one, it would be a feather in our cap to expand our sphere of influence across the country – and Times Square and New York City is a compliment.”
FILTER was the result of a two-year collaboration between designers at CLB, steel fabrication specialists at Emit Technologies in Sheridan, Wyoming, and woodworkers from Spearhead Timberworks in British Columbia.
When CLB was selected to participate in the event, Logan knew precisely who to call. “Realizing we were going to build this thing, my first call was to Ted Hall at Spearhead and then to Casey Osborn at Emit,” he says. “Both have raw material coming in one end of their buildings and craftspeople at the other end – and then lots of fire and smoke. I brought them in because they like to make cool stuff.”
In this case, that meant a 15-minute idea that turned into two-and-half years of on-again, off-again work during the pandemic. It was no small feat. “Its 20-some-odd feet in diameter and 20 feet high.,” he says. “That’s enough for the scale to work, and to feel the enclosure once you’re in it.”
It’s built primarily of steel plates, with wood for texture and warmth. “We were trying to work with the basic material utilized by the Emit group every day,” he says. ““It’s a story of reuse and being smart about how we use resources – 90 percent of the steel in the market today is recycled.”
Then there are Spearhead’s wood floorboards that take visitors up to a wood ramp, for a seat to take it all in. “To see photos of kids running around it, teens taking prom pictures, and workers eating lunch there – to have that influence by making this object – was really satisfying,” he says.
FILTER stood tall for a week, then was dismantled by Osborn and Emit. “It was like a flower that blossomed for a week – and now it’s taken down,” he says. “It’ll be reassembled on a park in an office campus in Sheridan, as an amenity for the community and for Casey and Emit. They’ll get to experience it, day-to-day.”
As for that tree at the center of it all – the one bought from a nursery in Maryland – it too has a new home. “It went to Battery Park, in a re-use moment for that former focal point,” he says.
That’s just part of the ethos that CLB brought to the metropolitan hub. “We come from a place in the Western U.S. that’s immersed in the natural world,” he says. “We’re very spoiled to live and practice there – and we got to bring a moment of respite to Times Square.”
Better yet, now New York knows who they are.
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