Elias Zananiri
Johnny Alston

Dear Mr. Calatrava

A mockup built in response to Santiago Calatrava’s proposed 80 South Street building project.


Materials and Building Strategies,Video Sculpture

Dear Mr. Calatrava is a mockup of the proposed building plan. The structure is based as closely as possible on Calatrava’s original mockup, with the addition of a large window for each cube. Each cube will as big as a four-story house and is meant to serve as a single-family residence. At the price tag of $30 million, these dwellings are obviously reserved for very well-off individuals. This seems a bit ridiculous, given the amount of space this building takes up and the number of people in New York City having trouble securing a place to stay, so our proposal is to convert this to affordable housing for everyone. 3 of our 6 windows are LCD screens showing videos of people from different financial situations co-habitating at 80 South Street. A person previously living on the street is on the 5th floor, a student is having friends over on the 4th floor, and a wealthy woman is enjoying a cucumber face mask on the 1st floor.

The 80 South Street building project is based on a Calatrava sculpture, and this is what I based myself on when building our mockup of it. A lot of the construction process was based on trial and error, and on searching online for mockup construction tips and tricks.
For the video, we were originally going to use projections, but eventually went for LCD screens as they would be less obtrusive and more mysterious. I experimented with a single cube at first, trying out different lighting configurations to get a sense of depth in the cube so it doesn't look like the screen was just tacked on in the end.

The target audience would be people who have heard of the 80 South Street project and who would recognize our mockup as a Calatrava piece when they see it. Also, people who don't necessarily know about the project but who are familiar with Calatrava, and who will understand the meaning of the project just by reading the title of the piece.

User Scenario
A user walks up to the building, noticing the flickering lights. As she gets closer, she sees that some of the windows have images in them. She gets even closer to see the images, and realises these are moving video images. She looks at each screen for a few minutes, studying what the people inside are doing.

The structure was built using foam-core for the cubes, and acrylic rods for the frame. The live windows were made using LCD screens from portable DVD players, the static windows using frosted acrylic and plastic figurines to generate shadows. Wires run all the way down the structure to the base, which holds DVD players to feed the content to the screens, and a simple circuit to make the live windows flicker, much like an old film projector. The DVD players are connected to the screens using long, custom-built flat flex cable which had to be ordered from Hong Kong.

The most useful thing I learned in this piece is how to calculate voltage, current, and resistance in complex circuits. I unfortunately had to learn the hard way as I burned all of the LCD backlights and had to rebuild them.
Another thing I learned is to always make a plan on paper before starting to work with the final material and to not work when you're tired because you are going to make mistakes. I had to rebuild all the cubes twice because of a mistake in where to cut the holes for the wiring.