When New York–based SoftLab founder Michael Szivos started planning "Mirror Mirror," the site in Waterfront Park didn't exist yet. The temporary park in Alexandria, Va., was under construction when Szivos was first introduced to the site where he would be installing the inaugural artwork for the Site/See: New Visions in Old Town program run by the City of Alexandria. The program aims to draw visitors to Alexandria with a new work of art informed by the site each year.
Mirror Mirror from SOFTlab on Vimeo.
SoftLab's design takes the form of an open circle of vertical panels that visitors can walk into and around. The exterior surface is clad in a mirror finish and reflects the environment and pedestrians around the site; inside the circle, the surface is clad in a spectrum of film. The panels are equipped with custom LED tubes that respond to sound: softer sounds induce random bursts of light to resemble chatter while louder sounds produce a pulse. As night begins to fall, the surfaces become more transparent, allowing the light to shine through the panels and reflect off of the facing mirrors. The pavement on which the installation sits is painted white to allow the lights to "create a mural on the ground," Szivos says.
The panels consist of a laser-cut aluminum frame and flat, acrylic mirrored pieces, all of which were manufactured off-site and constructed in Alexandria "like a Lego set," Szivos says. The firm aimed to conceal the structural and technological aspects using recessed bolts to hold it together and placing the computer and lights out of sight. "A lot of planning went into what you don't see."
Szivos says he drew inspiration for the piece from the Fresnel lens on top of Alexandria's historic Jones Point Lighthouse, just south of the installation site. He was struck by the idea of the lens representing both coming and going; something to look out from and to be seen from afar. "The hope is that people interact with it in ways that we wouldn't have expected," he says.
SoftLab was one of 50 firms the City of Alexandria invited to participate in the Site/See: New Visions in Old Town program, which aims to install a different temporary installation each year for the next 10 years. The city knew it wanted a project that had both a daytime and nighttime presence and would encourage people to come back, says Diane Ruggeiro, deputy director, recreation, parks and cultural activities. "There had also been a lot of talk amongst the task force about the piece being Instagrammable."
The official ribbon cutting ceremony for "Mirror Mirror is at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Waterfront Park in Alexandria.