A London Design Studio Brings the Psychological Experience of a City to Life

United Visual Artists teamed up with Brooklyn creative space A/D/O by MINI to mount a site-specific installation that mimics human activity in urban environments.

How might a designer translate the psychological experience of a city into a physical one? It’s a question that London-based art practice United Visual Artists mulled over with A/D/O, the Brooklyn creative space created by MINI, to develop the site-specific installation “Spirit of the City,” on view through September 2 in A/D/O’s courtyard. In it, a series of nine-foot-tall mirror-clad columns rotate at various speeds (intended to mimic human activity) on top of a raised platform, inviting visitors to walk in between them and, momentarily, get lost among their bewildering reflections. UVA’s founder, Matt Clark, drew from how he felt during his first visit to New York to inform the project’s design. “You’re in a sense of awe—but also disorientation, trying to find your way around somewhere that’s blocked by these huge, monolithic architectural forms,” he says. “New York is a very inclusive city, but it’s also quite alienating at first. This paradox of experience is what we wanted to explore.”

“Spirit of the City” is A/D/O’s second large-scale artwork and its first long-term piece, offering ample opportunity for people to experience both the installation and the MINI brand. “We’re taking MINI from being just a car [company] to being a brand that has more holistic answer to life in the city,” says Esther Bahne, head of brand strategy at MINI. She joined the company four years ago to help relaunch the enterprise with a focus on using its design heritage to explore various facets of urban life. UVA’s twirling copper-toned columns—a juxtaposition of rigid forms and graceful, almost magical movement—resonates with MINI’s vision of a modern metropolis. “UVA created a very optimistic view of a city,” Bahne says. “You walk through it and feel intrigued and enticed. Inspiring people and getting them to think about the built environment and how it impacts them is extremely relevant to us.”

Surface Studios is the brand marketing unit of Surface Media. 

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