In New York City, it seems like the construction never stops. On any given day, you’ll see multiple building facades surrounded by ugly scaffolding and plywood barriers on just about every street, and it’s not uncommon for work to stretch on for months or even years at a time. But construction doesn’t have to make these spaces completely unusable for the community. A new installation outside an ongoing $5 billion skyscraper development project demonstrates how urban spaces in transition can be enlivened with art, turning them from eyesores to fun destinations.
Citrovia is a 30,000-square-foot interactive public art installation bursting with juicy oversized lemons made of plaster. Occupying the courtyard space between the completed 70-story One Manhattan West building and its shorter sibling, Two Manhattan West, which will be completed in 2023, Citrovia is a brilliant disguise for the work zone. Over 700 lemons dangle from 18-foot-tall steel trees alongside 3,800 leaves made of foam, all painted by hand, as white fabric billows overhead to mimic clouds. Clusters of faux lemon slices create canopies overhead and form stepping stones on the artificial turf in front of a giant citrus sculpture.
Described by its creators as “larger than life and stranger than fiction,” the surreal display transports visitors to a colorful fantasy space year-round, and this winter, it will become a vivid antidote to the dreariness that New York City often experiences. This isn’t just a selfie backdrop, though visitors love to use it for that purpose. It’s also packed with fun activities and features. “Whack-a-Lemon” invites you to play an augmented reality game on your phone with the field of lemon slices, and a “Name-Your-Own-Garden” feature asks users to submit names for their favorite displays. All the while, AR vines climb and bloom all around you.
There are two things that make Citrovia a truly unique exhibition ripe for reproduction around the country. The first is that it’s completely free to the public, so absolutely anyone can come in and enjoy its wonders. And that’s no small thing, especially considering the size of the installation. The second is the fact that it’s not sponsored. You might think “Citrovia” is actually the name of a beverage company using the exhibit as advertising, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Brookfield Properties commissioned the project from creative group The Cuttlefish and Midnight Theater creative director Warren Adcock.
“In many cultures, lemons (and yellow) are symbols of optimism, so doing this specific installation, which places so much emphasis on size, scale, and proportion, felt right,” says The Cuttlefish, Inc. founder Evan Schechtman in an interview with Architectural Digest. “We went to the far extremes of a creative idea, then pulled it back a bit. We wanted to build something that was whimsical and elegant, but never gaudy.”
Citrovia is a fun addition to the area surrounding Penn Station on the western side of Midtown Manhattan. If you’d like to visit in person, you can do so at any time without an appointment. The exhibition is expected to remain in place for another two years or so, when Two Manhattan West is finally complete.