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Contronym: an auto-antonym; Janus Word; a word with two contradictory meanings.

Janus: god of beginnings and ending, duality, gates, transitions and time.

Kiosk: from Persian küshk, small separated garden pavilion open on multiple sides.

Contronym is a proposal for the 2019 Folly/Function competition at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, New York. 

How does one inject a new ‘sign’ into a context of sculptural art and landmarks with Manhattan as a backdrop? The project brief itself, to design a functional folly, is metaphysically demanding, and in the context of Socrates Sculpture Park becomes even more so. An architectural or sculptural folly has symbolic capacity, the follies of Tschumi’s La Villette, for example, however a specific performative operation (kiosk) does not fall within the purview of folly. The challenge, then, is to design a structure that resists easy classification, that resonates with its environment and free associates with the multivalent character of Socrates Sculpture Park. Such a structure must, like the park itself, be more than the sum of its parts.
A contronym is a word with two contradictory meanings. Contronym is a work with many contradictory characteristics. Its structure is fixed, its appearance constantly shifting. Reflective: constructed of clear material, it is quite colorful. It reflects the colors of the park, the sky, the city; its appearance changes with the time of day, the weather, the seasons. Transparent: constructed of clear material, but round in form, it is transparent in its center, opaque at its edges. This is dependent on your relation to the kiosk, as you move its transparency changes. Display: operators are visible through the transparent structure, whether seated or standing, it is always evident when the kiosk is occupied. Moiré: constructed of layered linear elements, across which dance shifting transparency and reflection, a moiré effect is created, obscuring the precise form of the kiosk. Omni-directional: There is no primary facade. As a folly, the kiosk does not possess hierarchy, all elevations are equally critical, equally banal. Its transparency advertises its activity, and its multiple portals open to interaction on all sides. Contronym is a symbol shimmering under the tension of its opposing identities, its invisibility makes it all the more present.
Socrates Sculpture Park emerged from a simple idea, to become a complex and unique cultural fixture in Long Island City. Contronym emerges from a simple structure to become an impactful symbol of the park. It is purposefully designed, but its appearance is ever-changing. It resonates with the ideals of the SSP - art, park, community. It is an open cave-like structure without doors; capped, but not closed. It invites interaction; children can play in and around it, adults can sit down for an intimate conversation inside. Its interior provides seating for two, along with a counter-height surface for displaying information, and multiple portals for interacting with visitors of the park. Storage is provided in lockable drawers below the counter. Contronym is covered, but is also open air. It’s operators will remain protected from rain and snow, while connected to the park at all times. It is a sculpture that blends visually and physically to become a part of the park itself. The proposed structure is simple, but its impact, like that of the SSP far exceeds its makeup.

Project Name:



Competition Proposal



Long Island City, New York


Hannibal Newsom

Contronym LIC, New York| 2019