Sosolimited, a studio based in Boston, has just finished a project that weaves the city’s neighbourhoods – all 22 of them – into a tapestry of image and colour.
The artwork, called Local Fabric, features photos taken by local photographers of different places around Boston, including the picturesque brownstones of Back Bay and the colourful row houses of Charlestown.
These images were then ‘weaved’ in geometric patterns, creating a digital tapestry that puts a fresh twist on familiar locations.
The project was commissioned by Boston Properties, who wanted an iconic centerpiece for the newly-redesigned lobby at 100 Federal Street. With this new piece, both the company as well as studio Sosolimited hope to infuse the downtown neighborhood with public art, as well as a sense of community.
“The artwork transforms the lobby at 100 Federal into a vibrant, contemporary space where tenants and residents of the neighborhood can work and socialize,” a press release reads. “It gives local residents a public stage for sharing their favorite places in the city.”
We recently spoke to Sosolimited to know more about their work, Local Fabric. Check it out:
What was the inspiration behind Local Fabric?
“The inspiration for Local Fabric came from the bold, colorful prints of the fashion world. The clothing worn in a city becomes, both literally and figuratively, the fabric of the neighborhood. We wondered how we could bring that idea full circle and weave the textures of the neighborhood landscape back into evolving, clothing-like patterns.
“We were fascinated by the way that neighborhoods are reconstructed online, through a mix of residents’ memories and their personal photos.
“Every time someone captures and shares their favorite slice of the city on social media, they add a unique thread to this quilt-like tapestry.”
Take us through the creative process.
“Boston Properties, the owner of 100 Federal, asked us to create a site-specific artwork that would speak to the community in and around the building, and engage them in a conversation about Boston.
“We have a long history of creating digital artworks that generate meaningful, evolving visuals from found images. We even made an app called PixelWeaver that turned internet searches into actual clothing. We were intrigued by the idea of weaving fashion inspired patterns out of the local sites of Boston’s neighborhoods.
“We poured through thousands of pattern images, looking for the right feel for the project. An important goal was to generate bold, surprising compositions, while maintaining enough legibility for our audience to connect with the material. We wanted people to get lost in the colors and textures of the screen, but at the same time think, ‘Wait, I know where that is. I’ve been there before!’
“After prototyping a handful of different algorithms for transforming photos into patterns, we landed on a geometric approach, informed by the angular glass panes of the atrium architecture.
“The software takes in a collection of pattern seeds, almost like punch cards for a loom, and applies them to each photo, creating a totally unique pattern each time. The pixels and colors of each photograph are sampled, stretched, and layered by the software to create intricate, evolving patterns.
“Given the enormous scale of the screen and heavy traffic through the space, we intentionally set a gentle pace for the animations. We thought of the artwork as a digital painting that slowly changed over the course of minutes. Each time you look back up after turning to talk to a friend or take a bite of your lunch, the piece looks totally different.”
Were there criteria for the photos? Did you commission local photographers for the project?
“Our intention to create a participatory platform steered us toward crowdsourced photos as our source material.
“To kick things off, we seeded the system with around 400 curated photos of Boston’s twenty-three neighborhoods, shared online under the Creative Commons Attribution License. All photographers are credited on screen each time their transformed photo appears.
“We looked for photographs that captured the distinct feel, culture, and texture of each neighborhood: the churches and murals of Roxbury, the multicolor row houses of Charlestown, the bold street fairs and cuisine of Chinatown.
“Adding new photos to the artwork is simple. We hope to invite Boston residents to submit new photos on an ongoing basis.
“We’re excited about this crowdsourced, photo-based approach to public art. It gives a creative voice to the community and builds on the familiarity of shared images to create something completely new. We look forward to creating new artworks that draw on different local image sets around the world.”
What do you hope for this project to become or mean for Boston?
“We want people to walk away with a sense of excitement and possibility for transformation across all twenty-three of Boston’s neighborhoods. We want to breathe new life and color into the familiar sites of Boston, and invite people to explore corners of the city they’ve never seen before.
“Last, but not least, we want to add a vibrant moment of color and life to the daily commute of thousands of Boston residents.”