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Transforming a Train Station on the Cheap

For only $155,000 a light sculpture has helped transform Stamford, Conn.'s unloved train station - “a building that has a harshness almost unequaled in contemporary architecture” - into a pulsating beacon "reminiscent of a Mondrian" painting.
March 10, 2013, 11am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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It's pretty amazing what a few light-emitting diodes (LEDs) can do to our most pedestrian pieces of infrastructure. In Stamford, Connecticut a $155,000 grant intended to bring art to outdoor spaces has done wonders for the city's "drab" train station, reports Alison Leigh Cowan. "City Hall used its $155,000 grant as kindling for a competition that did not ask applicants to tear down or remodel the unattractive building so much as reimagine it as a large blank canvas."  

Cowan explains the design, which was conceived by Sandy Garnett, a sculptor and painter, with a team that included "Joy Wulke, an environmental artist who runs Projects for a New Millennium; Steve Hamelin, a lighting expert who toured with Bruce Springsteen and Michael Jackson; and Jamie Burnett, an electrician well versed in theatrical design."

"Flexible, light-emitting diode strips — 1,275 feet in all — have been mounted along three sides of the building, which overlooks Interstate 95. At night, the strips offer a riot of colors that is complemented by 24 lights that are beamed onto the walls from across the street."

"Other cities like New Britain commissioned traditional outdoor art like murals with their awards," notes Cowan. "Stamford, however, asked applicants to suggest ways of using light because it is a more playful medium."

"Applicants recalled that they had their work cut out for them, and not just because of the limited budget. 'I always said it looked like something in Minsk,' Stamford’s director of economic development, Laure Aubuchon, said of the station, which she passes through twice daily as a reverse commuter. 'Which is probably insulting Minsk.'”

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Published on Thursday, March 7, 2013 in The New York Times
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