Reuters/Mike Segar
Members of the percussion ensemble Mantra Percussion showing the crowd how it’s done.
I ❤ NY

This giant, pulsating heart is a Valentine to New York City

By Anne Quito

Amidst the grime and spectacle of Times Square this week, a curious object appeared. Designed by Stereotank, a Brooklyn-based studio founded by two Venezuelan architects, the red extruded-plastic heart sculpture known as”HeartBeat” was the winner of the Times Square Valentine Heart competition, organized by The Architectural League and Times Square Arts.

Times Square Alliance
“Heartbeat” is on view in Times Square until March 9.

The interactive sculpture is an “urban drum” festooned with percussive instruments, to be played by any of the 300,000 pedestrians who traverse Manhattan’s iconic central square each day. The heart emits a pulsating light, and visitors can alter the rhythm by interacting with the tumbadora, PVC pipe organ, xylophone, electronic pads and rock drum encased in the sculpture. Amid the din of cars, street hawkers, commuters and tourists bathed in the square’s famously bright lights, the designers intended HeartBeat’s music to mingle with the ”urban concert” around it.

“It is an impressive object to occupy this space of cacophony,” says Columbia University professor of art history and archaeology Barry Bergdoll, who was part of the judging committee.

Times Square Alliance
Passersby can play several percussive instruments to change the sculpture’s pulsating rhythm.

Other proposals (PDF) this year imagined subtler interventions, including a mailbox kiosk for heartfelt missives, a ticker tape ribbon projecting messages, and a lyrical filigree sculpture offering a moment of stillness.

(Quartz reached out to the winning designers at Stereotank but did not hear back.)

Now in its seventh year, the competition has generated imaginative variations on the heart motif.

Times Square Alliance
2014: “Match-Maker” by Young Projects
Reuters/Keith Bedford
2013: “Heartwalk” by Situ Studio
Times Square Alliance
2012: “Hearts” by BIG I Bjarke Ingels Group
Flickr Creative Commons / Andrew Dallos
2011: “Hold Up The Heart” by Freecell
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
2010: “Ice Heart” by Moorhead & Moorhead
Flickr Creative Commons / Sandy Buchanan
2009: “Valentine to Times Square” by Gage / Clemenceau Architects

Nine couples will wed in front of the sculpture this Valentine’s day, despite a forecast calling for snow.

Amy Hart for Times Square Alliance
A wedding ceremony from 2014.
Amy Hart for Times Square Alliance
A wedding in the heart of the city.