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Each year, Times Square in NYC celebrates the Valentine’s Day by erecting a heart shaped sculpture at its center. This year’s installation is designed by Habitat Workshop.

Bright lights, thousands of pedestrians from all parts of the world, strange mascots, the buzz of traffic, the constant energetic eruption of noises and movement. Times Square is a chaotic, dynamic monument to the high-energy and diverse city it is found in.

And every year, AIA New York invites architects and designers around the world to compete in the annual Times Square Valentine Heart Design Competition, in order to inspire love, hope and unity in the city. Each year, the design is exhibited in the famous square throughout the month of February. 2022 marks the 14th year of the annual competition.

The challenge consists of designing a public art sculpture in the shape of a heart that embodies the holiday’s warm sentiments in its unique context.

2022: Bloom

by: Habitat Workshop

Bloom by Habitat Workshop
Bloom (2022) – image © Times Square Arts

This year's winning design is a promise of hope and light in the darkness.

A dynamic sculpture forming a canopy above the pedestrians, the installation is made of red and white PVC pipes that play with the ever-glowing lights of the famous square. Looking up through the pipes, the visitors can experience a pixelated view of the lights, and follow the casting heart shaped shadows in their path.

Bloom will be open to the public from February 9 to March 9, 2022.

2021: Love Letters

by: Soft-Firm / Reddymade

Love Letters by Soft-Firm/Reddymade
Love Letters (2021) – image © Times Square Arts

A truly interactive experience to express your love, the 2021 installation was a love-child of technology and art. Ribboning in soft curves that formed two interlocking hearts, last year's design allowed the participants to send in their love letters in a digital format, which would then be inscribed on a ribbon and attached to the inside of the sculpture.

The structure also offered a myriad of spaces that can be used for different purposes: a soapbox for public address, a private cove for couples, a "chapel" to reflect the views of the hectic square, and a wishing well for meditation.

Due to the challenges of the previous year that leaned heavily on digitization of most of our communications, Love Letters was a playful way of reconnecting to the public.

2020: Heart Squared

by: Modu + Eric Forman Studio

Heart Squared by Modu + Eric Forman
Heart Squared (2020) – image © Times Square Arts

An ever-changing kaleidoscope of lights, reflections, and perspectives, Heart Squared was a delicate yet eye-grabbing steel structure holding up 125 mirror panels in the middle of Times Square.

The structure was designed to bounce around reflections of all those who engage with it, even if momentarily, connecting the city and its inhabitants in all its diversity.

2019: X

by: Reddymade

X by Reddymade
X (2019) – image © Ka-Man Tse

2019’s installation explored how love can be found at the crossroads of difference and equality.

In popular culture, X is the shape of interpersonal and civic love: it can represent a kiss, and it is also the mark used in voting ballots. In addition to the Valentine’s reference, this design was also a nod to Times Square as a great crossroads of people, places and cultures.

The structure took its form from its name, and was made of 2 crossed aluminium planes forming a giant “X”. The planes created a space below that can be a passageway or a small shelter in the middle of the ever-shining screens of the square. As more people enter this space, the brighter the X glowed.

When viewed at an angle, the round openings at the center of the planes formed a heart.

2018: Window to the Heart

by: Aranda/Lasch + Marcelo Coelho

Window to the Heart by Aranda/Lasch + Marcelo Coelho
Window to the Heart (2018) – image © Aranda/Lasch + Marcelo Coelho with Formlabs

Located in the one of the most instagrammed locations in the world, the 2018 Valentine Heart was designed as the “world’s largest lens.”

The 3-D printed design reflected and distorted the lights of Times Square, creating a unique backdrop for countless selfies. While the structure contributed to the digital fame of the location, it also played with the concept of looking through the lens of the eye and of the camera.

2017: We Were Strangers Once Too

by: The Office For Creative Research

We Were Strangers Once Too by The Office For Creative Research
We Were Strangers Once Too (2017) – image © The Office For Creative Research

The 2017 Valentine Heart called “We Were Strangers Once Too” aimed to honor the immigrants of New York City, highlighting their role in the development and current identity of the city and celebrating diversity.

The scheme consisted of 33 poles, each one depicting pubic data on the foreign-born residents of NYC. However, when viewed at a distance, the poles would take the shape of a heart.

2016: Heart of Hearts

by: Collective-LOK

Heart of Hearts by Collective-LOK
Heart of Hearts (2016) – image © Justin Bettman

The design by Collective-LOK in 2016 featured a ring of 12 gold-tinted, mirrored surfaces forming heart shapes. At the center of each heart was a small “kissing booth”, offering both privacy to the visitors and a sense of publicity through kaleidoscopic reflections.

2015: HeartBeat

by: Stereotank

Heartbeat by Stereotank
Heartbeat (2015) – image © Clint Spaulding

The winning design in 2015 aimed to bring the visitors of Times Square together through music and joy.

Glowing and beating at a rhythm that changes according to the proximity of the passers-by, Heartbreak allowed people to use different types of percussion instruments embedded in the sculpture to join in and partake in an urban concert.

2014: Match-Maker

by: Young Projects

Match-Maker by Young Projects
Match-Maker (2014) – image © Ka-Man Tse

Horoscopes can play a crucial role when it comes to romantic prospects. And the 2014 Valentine Heart focused on this belief to create a playful sculpture.

Aptly named Match-Maker, the design aimed to cosmically connect people in one of the world’s most visited squares according to their astrological signs. The structure consisted of a curious tangle of red pipes leading out to 12 points in a circle, marked by astrological signs. Standing at the point of your star sign would allow you to see 4 of your most compatible signs through the periscope system in the pipes.

The playful structure looked like a heart from some perspectives, whereas from the others would appear to be a complex, incomprehensible tangle.

2013: Heartwalk

by: Situ Studio

Heartwalk by Situ Studio
Heartwalk (2013) – image © Ka-Man Tse

Constructed from salvaged debris after the devastating Sandy hurricane, the winning design of 2013 was a ribbon of wood panels gradually rising from the ground to create a semi-enclosed, lit up space. The structure was seen as an epitome of how love can bring people together during the hardest of times.

2012: BIG ♥ NYC

by: BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group)

BIG ♥ NYC (2012) – image © Ho Kyung Lee

BIG’s winning design for the Valentine Heart competition was a 3m tall red heart glowing in a cube of acrylic tubes. Touching the heart-shaped sensor placed in front of the structure would make the heart glow ever brighter and the pulse beating faster. The more people joined hands, the longer the chain became, the brighter the heart would glow.

The design very much reflected the location it was in: just like the Times Square, the sculpture was made of light, love and connection.

2011: LightHearted

by: Freecell and Peter Dorsey

Lighthearted by freecell
Lighthearted (2011) – image © freecell

LightHearted was a lightweight structure, consisting o 5 pairs of aluminium loops connected with rotating joints. The loops were covered with a red fabric, which slightly reflected the light and allowed the wind to pass through.

During a 10-day event, groups of 6 people volunteered to hold up each of the panels for 15-30 minutes at a time, to create the shape of a heart. As a result, the Valentine Heart became a sculpture powered by people, team work and conversation, untethered in the mornings until a stream of people gather to hold it up.

2010: Ice Heart

by: Moorhead & Moorhead

Ice Heart by Moorhead & Moorhead
Ice Heart (2010) – image © Tımes Square Arts

The winning design of 2010 was a 3m tall heart made of bricks of ice. The structure had a kaleidoscope effect, reflecting the colors, the light and textures.

2009: Valentine to Times Square

by: Gage / Clemenceau Architects

Valentine to Times Square by Gage/ Clemenceau Architects
Valentine to Times Square (2009) – image © Times Square Arts

The first-ever design of the annual Time Square Valentine Heart Design Competition was a big heart shaped sculpture, designed in collaboration by Gage and Clemenceau Architects. The structure, made of a delicate steel sheathing over shelves of colorful led lights, celebrated the intersection of technology and tradition.


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