On the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Bronx Exposition of Science, Art and Industries in Starlight Park, in collaboration with acclaimed artist Amy Pryor, nea studio was selected among eight other teams and awarded a grant from the Bronx River Art Center and NYC Parks to build a functional seating/lighting installation titled Big Dipper Bench. This art installation consists of seven solar-powered stars on wooden block pedestals, connected by six benches.
The shape and style of this illuminating bench is a nod to the environment and its inhabitants. The bench not only creates a playful interaction with its surroundings, but is a graphic replication of the Big Dipper constellation, a universal icon. The Big Dipper contains one of the brightest stars in the sky, and cited in various mythologies dating back to the first century. For this reason, the bench stands out to travelers who will be drawn to its location, while also orienting them in space with a clearly marked engraved arrow pointing north. Throughout the night, it rotates around the north celestial pole, counterclockwise. It makes one complete revolution in 24 hours and can be used to mark time.
Mirroring the view of the vast night sky it faces, this solid seating/lighting installation ties earth, body and cosmos by encouraging resting and social interaction in this bucolic spot of the Bronx River Park. As well as offering seating and lighting to its’ inhabitants, the Big Dipper Bench has been designed with sustainability in mind. It is not only built out of local and environmentally friendly wooden materials, but also incorporates photovoltaic modules.
Because of light pollution it is often difficult to see stars at night in New York City, but the Big Dipper is an important exception. This piece of public art serves several purposes at the same time – it commemorates the 1918 Expo, provides a place to rest, produces illumination at night using solar panels, and functions as a map to help familiarize Bronx residents with the night sky.
Nina Edwards Anker, Amy Pryor
Drafting and Fabrication
Michael Edwards, avioWorks