The Bat Signal of Love? The World’s Largest Heart-Shaped Lens Comes to NYC for Valentine’s Day

A romantic photo op even a superhero would love—just in time for Valentine's Day!

ArandaLasch + Marcelo Coelho, Window to the Heart in Times Square. Photo courtesy of Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.
ArandaLasch + Marcelo Coelho, Window to the Heart in Times Square. Photo courtesy of Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.

This Valentine’s Day, New York is putting love under the looking glass—literally.

A team of architects has erected the world’s largest lens, measuring 12 feet in diameter, in celebration of Valentine’s Day, right in the center of Times Square. Designed by the firm ArandaLasch and architect Marcelo Coelho, and produced using 3-D printing, the massive installation features a heart-shaped cutout in its center, offering a romantic photo-op for tourists and New Yorkers alike.

“We’re a media obsessed culture, but a lot of people don’t give the lens enough credit,” Benjamin Aranda, one of the project’s four designers, told artnet News at its unveiling. “Behind every photo that you see is a lens.”

Window to the Heart is the winner of the 10th-anniversary edition of the annual Times Square Valentine Heart Design competition, following recent pieces such as a tribute to immigration from the Office for Creative ResearchCollective–LOK’s ring of heart-shaped kissing booths, and an interactive instrument installation by Stereotank.

ArandaLasch + Marcelo Coelho, Window to the Heart in Times Square. Photo courtesy of Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.

ArandaLasch + Marcelo Coelho, Window to the Heart in Times Square. Photo courtesy of Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.

“It’s one simple idea: how do you manifest a heart and love in Times Square?” Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, told artnet News. “I’m reminded every year of the extraordinary creativity of the design community of New York.” He described Window to the Heart as a “reflection on the culture of selfies and narcissism, and all the pictures taken here—there are 17,000 social posts a day in Times Square.”

“When we first came to Times Square to start to think about this project, we noticed that everybody was taking photos. In the spirit of Times Square, we thought, let’s make the biggest lens ever!” Aranda added. “And then it was like, ‘okay, how does this work?’ Luckily, there were a lot of computers and tools to help figure it out.”

The massive installation was produced by Formlabs, a 3-D-printing manufacturer which had previously only printed lenses on a much smaller scale, as part of a fully 3-D-printed camera. “None of the other desktop 3-D printers can make transparent parts like this,” the company’s Max Lobovsky told artnet News, estimating that the company used 10 to 20 printers to produce all of the parts for the lens over a period of several weeks.

Building Window to the Heart required learning quite a bit about the workings of lens and optics. A regular 12-foot-tall lens would be a ridiculous nine feet deep. To solve the problem, the team used a Fresnel lens, designed for lighthouses, which features an array of thin slices of the lens’s edge, placed on a flat surface.

Marcelo Coelho and Ben Aranda working on <em>Window to the Heart</em>. Photo courtesy of ArandaLasch + Marcelo Coelho,.

Marcelo Coelho and Ben Aranda working on Window to the Heart. Photo courtesy of ArandaLasch + Marcelo Coelho.

They also chose to make a doughnut-shaped toric lens, which draws the light in towards the center, diffusing it into a glowing ring. A convex lens would have risked dangerous concentrations of light, in much the same way that a magnifying glass can be used to start a fire. “We couldn’t be burning pedestrians,” joked Aranda.

Fire hazards aside, Window to the Heart is a romantic tribute to the city that never sleeps. As Tompkins put it, “this is really a love note to New York, from New York.”

See more photos of the installation below.

ArandaLasch + Marcelo Coelho, <em>Window to the Heart</em> in Times Square. Photo courtesy of Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.

ArandaLasch + Marcelo Coelho’s Window to the Heart in Times Square. Photo courtesy of Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.

ArandaLasch + Marcelo Coelho, Window to the Heart in Times Square. Photo courtesy of Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.

ArandaLasch + Marcelo Coelho’s Window to the Heart in Times Square. Photo courtesy of Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.

ArandaLasch + Marcelo Coelho, Window to the Heart in Times Square. Photo courtesy of Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.

ArandaLasch + Marcelo Coelho’s Window to the Heart in Times Square. Photo courtesy of Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.

ArandaLasch + Marcelo Coelho, Window to the Heart in Times Square. Photo courtesy of Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.

ArandaLasch + Marcelo Coelho’s Window to the Heart in Times Square. Photo courtesy of Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.

ArandaLasch + Marcelo Coelho, Window to the Heart in Times Square. Photo courtesy of Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.

ArandaLasch + Marcelo Coelho’s Window to the Heart in Times Square. Photo courtesy of Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.

ArandaLasch + Marcelo Coelho’s Window to the Heart is on view in New York’s Times Square at Father Duffy Square between 46th and 47th Streets, February 1–28, 2018.


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