Surfacing the work of emerging designers and testing new strategies to bring people together in public space.


Drive-Thru by Soft-Firm. Photo: Cameron Blaylock for DBP

Since 2014, Van Alen Institute has connected longstanding local organizations with emerging and BIPOC artists to create community-led public art and design installations. Through these space activations, Common Build amplifies the advocacy work of Van Alen’s community partners, brings together local residents to connect and celebrate, and supports emerging artists and designers as they execute meaningful public realm projects.

Common Build also explores the value of public art and design as a tool for local information sharing, community organizing, issue advocacy, and social justice.

Points of Promise

Public art and design tools to support civic engagement in Gowanus amidst the neighborhood’s redevelopment.

With Your Voice

Now on view! Created by Juanli Carrión and Rodolfo Kusulas, With Your Voice envisions major changes coming to Gowanus, Brooklyn.

Ugly Beauties

On view March 8–May 2, 2024, Curry J. Hackett’s Ugly Beauties envisioned abundant urban futures that center Black communities.


A light installation to inform Gowanus residents about water quality of the Gowanus canal.


March 1–May 1, 2023
An interactive public pavilion by artist Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong, with lighting design by Arup.


February 17–April 14, 2022
A reconfigurable outdoor theater, Drive-Thru by Soft-Firm features videos and performances by Brooklyn artists, filmmakers, and cultural organizations.


November 22, 2021–January 2, 2022
Inspired by New York’s tapestry of cultures and people, Interwoven by Atelier Cho Thompson celebrates the joys of reconnecting…

Breathing Pavilion

March 16–May 11, 2021
Breathing Pavilion by Ekene Ijeoma created a public space of reprieve during this time of intense hardship and loss.

Point of Action

November 23, 2020–January 1, 2021
Point of Action by Studio Cooke John considers how public space can develop bonds and networks that help our…


November 18, 2019–January 1, 2020
Ziggy is a kaleidoscopic beacon for the people of New York. Ziggy celebrated the holiday season with vibrant…


November 19, 2018–January 1, 2019
Happy is both a figure and a place. A series of softly shaped and richly colored screens drape…

Flatiron Reflection

November 20, 2017–January 1, 2018
Flatiron Reflection , by architecture and design firm Future Expansion, opened to the public on Monday, November 20,…

Flatiron Sky-Line

November 21, 2016–January 1, 2017
For the third year, Van Alen Institute and the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership called for proposals for the annual Flatiron…


November 18, 2015–January 1, 2016
SOFTlab’s winning proposal, Nova, was unveiled on November 18th, 2015 as the centerpiece of the Partnership’s annual holiday programming and…

New York Light

November 15, 2014–January 1, 2015
Van Alen Institute and the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership called for proposals for a temporary installation at the Flatiron Public…

2014 Times Square Valentine Heart Design Competition

A collaboration with the Times Square Alliance, the 2014 Times Square Valentine Heart Design Competition brought a singular design experience to one of New…