Robert Goodwin, AIA, a New York-based design principal with the firm Perkins + Will, believes that the LED installation at Gateway Community College’s New Haven campus, “shows the value of (the) percent for art program.”
According to the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development website, “the Art in Public Spaces program requires that not less than 1% of the cost of construction or renovation of publicly accessible state buildings be allocated for the commission or purchase of artwork for that building.”
The installation, a more than 30′ by 30′ LED screen that displays the faces of those who study, teach, and work at the school, is located in the linear atrium space that connects the campus’ spaces. The installation was conceived and designed by Cameron McNall and his California-based company Electroland. Gateway Community College’s New Haven campus opened in September 2012.
Locating a public art component in the atrium, which anchors a multistory bridge over George Street, provided Goodwin and his colleagues an opportunity to enhance the surrounding community and connect the building thereto.
The idea of bringing Gateway Community College downtown was an effort, in part, to rejuvenate the city’s Ninth Square neighborhood, Goodwin said, crediting city, state, and college officials with promoting that vision.
Chosen by a committee that was established to oversee the percent for art component of the building project, Electroland initially proposed what Goodwin described as an “abstracted field of lights.”
The committee responded by asking for a more site-specific idea, which resulted in an installation that features — in the form of slow-motion video portraits — the faces of the college’s student and staff community, and, in doing so, humanizes the school’s downtown campus.
“We really wanted it to be something that is integrated into the whole idea of the building,” Goodwin, the building project’s lead designer, said.
The confluence of design, art, and education that’s found in the Gateway Community College building impacts the city “in a very positive way,” he said.
“It’s like an electronic Chuck Close painting,” Goodwin said of the LED screen, in that its abstraction gives way to realism the more distance one puts between him or her and the installation itself.