Where the High Line terminates at the corner of West 30th Street and 10th Avenue in Manhattan, the air is thick with the thud of hammers and the drone of machinery, a din that has come to signify the city’s unrelenting real estate boom. Smack up against the construction site of a Kohn Pedersen Fox-designed tower (the first in the bevy of projects rising in the Hudson Yards development), a new public art installation is undergoing its own transformation, only in miniature.
Today, the latest iteration of Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s traveling work “The Collectivity Project” opens to the public, an imaginary LEGO cityscape that viewers are free to alter as they wish.
The relational artwork, first realized a decade ago in Albania, consists of two tons of bone-white LEGO bricks spread across three tables, both in loose heaps and in built form. The High Line invited eight architecture firms with projects in the neighborhood—including Diller Scofidio + Renfro, BIG (which coincidentally is building LEGO’s Danish visitor’s center), OMA, and Renzo Piano Building Workshop—to contribute LEGO architecture for the initial scheme.
The work is modest for Eliasson, who is best known for dazzling projects such as manmade waterfalls and riverbeds, ethereal pavilions, and light installations. But at the preview, Friends of the High Line co-founder Robert Hammond called Eliasson’s work “part utopian vision, part commentary.” Any passerby can choose to demolish BIG’s shard-like LEGO tower, lop off branches of a baobab tree designed by James Corner Field Operations, or topple SHoP’s skinny skyscraper. Or, they can add on to it.
“Building a city becomes a game, but also an exercise in civic responsibility,” said Cecilia Alemani, the High Line’s chief curator.
“The Collectivity Project” is part of a larger group show called Panorama, which features the work of artists Kris Martin, Damián Ortega, Katrin Sigurdardóttir, and others. Eliasson’s work is on view and open through September 30.