On February 7, the Urban Design Forum unveiled The Office for Creative Research’s winning proposal for this year’s Times Square Heart Competition, We Were Strangers Once Too.

“Thank you Tim for inviting us to curate this year’s competition, and thank you Commissioner Agarwal for joining us to rally in support of this project.

My name is Daniel McPhee and I’m the Executive Director of the Urban Design Forum, an organization that gathers civic leaders to debate the defining issues facing our city. It was our pleasure to serve as the curatorial partner for this year’s competition.

In the last two weeks, New Yorkers have taken to the streets to defend our city’s values of diversity and inclusion. In this turbulent political climate, public spaces like Times Square are critical to our democracy: as places where people can safely speak their minds and agitate in defense of their families and neighbors.

I am proud to be here today to congratulate the Office for Creative Research on their inspiring project celebrating New York’s immigrant communities, We Were Strangers Once Too.

We Were Strangers Once Too draws you in, and welcomes you to reflect on your own experience of coming to New York. And when you finally step back to admire the sculpture in the middle of Times Square, you see that immigrants are truly at the heart of our city’s dynamism.
It is a powerful reminder that we all benefit from the courage and tenacity of immigrants who came before us.

It is a powerful reminder that our diversity is essential to our cultural vibrancy and economic prosperity.

And it is a powerful reminder that New York City has been and must remain a city of immigrants.

The Office for Creative Research also asks two pivotal questions with this project: first, how can we measure the extraordinary contributions of New York’s immigrant communities? And second, how can we use data – cold hard facts and figures – to drive meaningful activism and social change?

These are questions the Urban Design Forum is excited to investigate, which is why we’re proud to launch a new fellowship, Design for Arrival. Over the next twelve months, we’ll explore how designers, planners and civic leaders can better serve new arrivals to our great city. I invite you all to join us as we work to build a more equitable and inclusive New York.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the seven outstanding design teams who also participated in this year’s competition: Alan Waxman Ecosocial Design, Ekene Ijeoma, Future Firm with Andrew Heumann, Jaklitsch / Gardner Architects, McEwen Studio, Partner & Partners with Annie Barrett, and Young New Yorkers – thank you for all your incredible work.

And of course, congratulations again to the Office for Creative Research team – Jer, Kate, Noa and Genevieve – for advancing this important conversation on the role that immigration plays in building great cities.”

– Daniel McPhee, Executive Director

Courtesy of Justin Bettman for Times Square Arts.

Daniel McPhee and Forum Board Member Dev Hawley