The work entitled “Point of Action” by Jamaican-born architect Nina Cooke John was chosen by the Van Alen Institute and the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership in New York City, as the central piece in its yearly competition. The project, which is open daily and will be on view through January 1, 2021, in the Flatiron Public Plazas, is the first time that the work of a single designer will be shown in both the north and south public plazas on both sides of 23rd Street. “Point of Action” is part of the yearly “23 Days of Flatiron Cheer” event. Architect Cooke John hopes that her project will encourage people to consider how they connect with those they see every day so that they can “move forward together.”
The “Point of Action” installation comprises six-foot circles on the Flatiron Public Plazas to create nine “spotlight,” each of which has its own vertical metal frame. Ropes are woven through each frame to resemble a curtain pulled aside to allow viewers to take the spotlight and connect with other viewers across the plazas. Light emits from a halo above each circle to strengthen the framing concept, and lights embedded into each frame’s sides present another layer to viewers.
Cooke John, who attended Campion College in her native Jamaica, earned a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell University and a Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. She also taught architecture and design strategy at Syracuse University and currently teaches at Parsons, the New School for Design. She has been a registered architect since 2000 and holds licenses in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
Cooke John says that Jamaica continues to be an influence in how she views architecture, noting that Jamaicans are “incredibly innovative.” Their innovation stems from taking what they have and making it fit a need in a creative way. She says that this approach can be seen in Jamaica in its zinc houses, juice carts, and clothing. She also believes that it reflects the country’s complex and multilayered history, something she draws upon frequently. Her undergraduate thesis explored the creation of public space for Jamaican immigrants in New York City.
Cooke John has also worked on projects in Jamaica, and she and her brother entered the competition for the new Jamaican Parliament a few years ago. Their entry considered how to place a building that represents the structure of government into a public park and how that affects the way people feel connected to their government. She said that becoming reacquainted with the history and context of Heroes’ Park and the operation of Jamaican’s Parliament while working on her submission was “very satisfying.”
Commenting on how her holidays will differ in 2020 due to COVID-19, Cooke John said she could “definitely do with a nice long day on a beach” and that she will miss the large extended family gathering that usually celebrates Christmas Day with a feast of ham, sorrel, and Christmas pudding. The 2020 celebration will include her immediate family with virtual visits with others in the evening, but “it just won’t be Christmas without the extended family.”
Source: Van Alen Institute