Nautical Charts – Gowanus & Red Hook from 1733-1922; Fathom Points + Compass Bearings, 2013
Laminated glass in upper mezzanine and transom window at street entry; Ceramic tile and stainless steel on control building ground floor
At the Smith-9 Street Station, Alyson Shotz uses the local maritime history of the surrounding Gowanus and Red Hook communities to create a series of windows and large wall mosaic. Shotz has a studio near the station, in Red Hook, and has long been fascinated by the history in the area’s cobblestone streets and old factory buildings. The area’s maritime history is at a remove from the casual viewer and Shotz brings it to the forefront, first, in the station’s mezzanine level, seen by arriving travelers who make their way from the elevated platform to escalators. There are 26 windows etched with silver reflective ink in layers of glass that create a prismatic effect as one passes them. Each features a different historic nautical map of the waters that are in the general direction the viewer is facing. The maps are from the 1700’s to 1900’s and show the Red Hook and Gowanus waterfront and the changes evident as time progresses. The contemporary landscape seen through the windows completes the evolution. The type of glass used makes the maps seem to fade in and out, depending on the time of day and the movement of transit riders through the space. Formerly boarded up and the station rehabilitation enabled these windows to be reopened with new frames, making the station, the highest in the NYC Transit system, a place filled with natural light.
At the station entrance on 9th Street, four large transom windows are etched with what appears to be an elegant line drawing, but which is actually a historic plan of a boat hull, built in Brooklyn around 1770. The piece functions both as an abstract drawing and a marker for this ship building activity that once dominated the neighborhood. Mayer of Munich created the windows.
The rear wall of the station building also may seem like an abstract line drawing created in stainless steel against a vivid blue tile mosaic background. As one moves closer, it is revealed as a nautical map, with numbers for depth and letters for directions. The mosaic map was adapted from a 1779 nautical map of NY Harbor as seen from the shoreline of Brooklyn by Mosaika Art & Design fabricators. Shotz brings history to the present, in the contemporary new station building.
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