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Sandwiched between Time Square’s glowing screens and the high-rise towers at 46th and 47th Streets, passersby can explore the curving plywood panels of a new installation by Soft-Firm called Love Letters. Public art program Times Square Arts selected the interactive piece by the New York–based interdisciplinary practice as the winner of its 13th annual design competition, curated by Reddymade Architecture and Design in collaboration with public-art non-profit worthless studios. Playing off of New York City building facades, the roughly 20-by-28-foot work resembles a scrolling storefront at street level; however, a birds-eye view reveals two intersecting hearts as the centerpiece of the annual Valentine’s Day event, titled Love in Times Square.

Comprising four distinct spaces (a soapbox, seating area, chapel, and interactive “wishing well”) Love Letters’  invites viewers to engage with the city and its community—from a safe distance —in an act of “collective resilience,” according to Times Square Arts director Jean Cooney. “Soft-Firm has poetically transformed plywood—which has become a marker of fear and defensiveness across the landscape of our country—and repurposed it into something unexpected: a platform for creative expressions of love, inclusivity, and hope,” she says. From within the open-air structure—which is made of locally sourced plywood panels, mirrored dichroic film windows, and safety net—one can glimpse alternate views of this, now quiet, tourist mecca. Visitors are invited to tie ribbons scrawled with personal messages onto the sculpture’s netted underlay: letters of protest, a letter to a lost loved one, or a message of appreciation to essential workers. There are even plans for a few couples to use the chapel for socially distanced weddings and surprise proposals.

The temporary installation serves as a memorial to those the city has lost and a beacon of renewal “during a year when love, solidarity, and justice have come into focus as essential for the health and resilience of our communities,” said Soft-Firm’s founding members Lexi Tsien and Talitha Liu.

Love Letters will be open to the public through March 10.

Visitors can affix messages to the sculpture's safety net. Photo by Maria BaranovaVisitors can affix messages to the sculpture's safety net. Photo by Maria Baranova