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Google Building’s Scaffolding Shows Chelsea’s Past

Monday, April 09, 2012

On Monday, workers affixed a 450-foot-long vinyl mural by Dark Igloo onto scaffolding in front of New York's Google headquarters at 111 Eighth Avenue. On Monday, workers affixed a 450-foot-long vinyl mural by Dark Igloo onto scaffolding in front of New York's Google headquarters at 111 Eighth Avenue. (Abbie Fentress Swanson/WNYC)

On Monday, workers affixed a vinyl mural onto the scaffolding wrapping around Google's New York headquarters at 111 Eighth Avenue.

The cartoons on the 450-foot-long, 4-foot-tall mural refer to famous landmarks and key figures in Chelsea’s past, from Major Thomas Clark, who named the neighborhood in the 1700s, to Jack Kerouac, who wrote On the Road at the Chelsea Hotel in the 1950s.

The illustrations were drawn in a week by Mark Miller and Dave Franzese, who run the Williamsburg, Brooklyn design studio Dark Igloo.

"Physically this is the biggest project we've ever done," said Franzese, a California native who now lives in Brooklyn. His parents lived in Chelsea from 1973 to 1980. "I'd say cosmically, based on the parent connection, this is the biggest project I've ever done as an illustrator."

Google spokesperson Jordan Newman said Dark Igloo's portfolio, most recently the artwork the two 29 year olds did for the Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee, was in line with Google's sensibilities.

"There's this really awesome sense of whimsy that you see in their artwork," he said, "which is something that Google always aspires to as well."

'2001: A Space Odyssey' was written by Arthur C. Clarke in the Chelsea Hotel and then was made into a movie by Stanley Kubrick in 1968."The drawings, I find them cool," said Greek tourist Alexandros Tzartzouras, gazing up at a piece of the mural showing Sid Vicious, of the Sex Pistols, getting hit on the head with a frying pan by his girlfriend Nancy Spungen in the Chelsea Hotel. "Fantastic."

Google bought the old Port Authority building, which is the company's second largest office in the world, in December 2010 for $1.8 billion. The scaffolding is up at 111 Eighth Avenue in accordance with New York City Local Law 11, which requires periodic facade inspections for buildings that have more than six stories. The company wanted to do something fun with the required scaffolding and was inspired by the Bowery Mural at Houston Street and Bowery.

"It beats staring at one color up there," said security officer Edwin Santiago, who spends much of his shift standing outside a bank on the corner of Eighth Avenue and W. 16th Street. "Gives you something more interesting, more detailed to look at."

One of the pieces of the 450-foot long mural made by Dark Igloo on Google's New York headquarters scaffolding.

Staring up at a piece of the mural showing the typewriter Kerouac used to write On the Road, car service driver Abdel Ed admitted he didn't get the meaning of the mural. "But anything about art is positive," he said.

Mikel Nettby, who is visiting Chelsea from Sweden, said he wondered who "Guy Beringer" was when he came up from the subway at W. 16th Street and Eighth Avenue. Beringer, whose name is drawn spraypainted in the mural, reportedly coined the word "brunch" in the 1890s. "For me it says, 'Have a good time in New York,'" he said.

The scaffolding and mural will be up through the end of May. A web site called ChelseaIllustrated.com, which Google and Dark Igloo built, will launch on April 12 to give viewers a closer look at the mural and multimedia bits of information about the history of the neighborhood.

Check out a slideshow of the mural below.

The mural starts at the corner of W. 15th Street and Eighth Avenue, Googling Major Thomas Clark, who named the land he was living on 'Chelsea' in the 1700s after one of his British estates.
Abbie Fentress Swanson
The mural starts at the corner of W. 15th Street and Eighth Avenue, Googling Major Thomas Clark, who named the land he was living on 'Chelsea' in the 1700s after one of his British estates.
It then wraps around the scaffolding onto Eighth Avenue to show the neighborhood's transformation from industrial to boho -- poodles, French bulldogs and all.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/WNYC
It then wraps around the scaffolding onto Eighth Avenue to show the neighborhood's transformation from industrial to boho -- poodles, French bulldogs and all.
Then the cartoon pays homage to Chelsea's many and diverse art galleries.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/WNYC
Then the cartoon pays homage to Chelsea's many and diverse art galleries.
Followed by the Chelsea Market.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/WNYC
Followed by the Chelsea Market.
The old Port Authority building is home to Google's New York headquarters.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/WNYC
The old Port Authority building is home to Google's New York headquarters.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/WNYC

As it wraps onto W. 16th Street, the mural pays homage to those who lived in the Chelsea Hotel: Arthur C. Clarke (author of '2001: A Space Odyssey', which was made into a movie by Stanley Kubrick), Sid Vicious, of the Sex Pistols, his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, and Madonna, represented by those ruby red lips.

On W. 16th Street, the history of the Meatpacking District gets its moment, as does Jack Kerouac, who wrote 'On the Road' on a 120-foot sheet of paper in the Chelsea Hotel.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/WNYC
On W. 16th Street, the history of the Meatpacking District gets its moment, as does Jack Kerouac, who wrote 'On the Road' on a 120-foot sheet of paper in the Chelsea Hotel.
The mural finishes on W. 16th Street with Dark Igloo's signature ending, 'Have a cool day.'
Abbie Fentress Swanson/WNYC
The mural finishes on W. 16th Street with Dark Igloo's signature ending, 'Have a cool day.'

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Comments [12]

Cody Masters from Los Angeles

Mr. David Franzese was my roommate in College. Google his name and check out some of his old work he did for the UCSB Newspaper, 'The Daily Nexus.' You will love all of it. So proud of the guy!

Apr. 22 2012 08:22 PM
rachel from Stamford

The Gay population is really a huge part of Chelsea's history and it seems like they were completely left out of the conversation. I think this is so surprising since Google is a company that celebrates LGBT rights.

Apr. 17 2012 07:35 PM

Hi Bob,

Mark Miller and Dave Franzese drew the illustrations together.

Apr. 16 2012 01:48 PM
Bob from White Plains

Curious as to who did the illustrations, was it Mr. Fransese or Miller? Do they draw together? Seems like only one person's actually doing the illustrations but the article says it's two people.

Apr. 13 2012 12:38 PM
Rob Krebs from Wahsington, DC

And I'll bet the vinyl is recyclable like the big Central Park installation: The Gates by Christo. Those orange vinyl posts were recycled into architectural rulers - I have one! Way to go Vinyl!
http://vinylbydesign.com/mainmenu/Learn/VinylRecycling/ChristosGates.aspx

Apr. 11 2012 10:49 AM
Trianglefirecoalition from Manhattan

This project is not only telling a history of the community, the instillation is also making the street and scaffolding more beautiful. The Triangle Fire Coalition is working on a similar project creating a memorial for the women who worked at the triangle fire. This is a relic from the Open Archive, memorializing the women who died in the fire, a major historic event that took place in Greenwich Village
http://rememberthetrianglefire.org/open-archive/hand-made-memorial/

Apr. 10 2012 11:44 PM
JWB from Chelsea

I hope that Google will do one of its Home Pages with a guide to the mural. It is whimsical, Haring-like-let's not call it "art" but a fun solution and better than the usual blue paint with NYC permits and/or nightclub adverts.

Apr. 10 2012 11:29 AM

The mural seems to sit very heavy on the back of Keith Haring and I think it is hardly true to the history of Chelsea. It is at best a cute design-the best for inspiration is the idea of decorating scaffolding. If somebody were to hire you to create paintings for a movie to look like a character was in the presence of a painting that already exists I'm not sure you are actually creating anything. As New Yorkers we get what we deserve. Imagine this, people now come to our city to get "knock offs". Didn't we used to be the original?

Apr. 10 2012 08:00 AM
dave from Chelsea

Am I missing something? Like the gay men who transformed the neighborhood, made it palatable for the Carrie Bradshaw wannabees and are now being pushed out by "boho poodles" and double-wide baby strollers?

Have a Cool Day!

Apr. 10 2012 06:59 AM
VetKoshi from manhattan

Anything that makes construction sites look better is wonderful. And then this has a story behind it. Keep it up google, perhaps thousands of construction sites will finally jolly up my city

Apr. 10 2012 06:58 AM
James Burns from University of Delaware

Kerouac wrote "On the Road" to "explain things" to his new wife (Joan Haverty). They were living at 125 W. 21st Street. He continued the novel after they moved in with his mother at 454 W. 20th Street. After his marriage ended he stayed with his friend Lucian Carr at 149 W. 21st Street, where he retyped part of the scroll that was chewed up by Carr's dog. Kerouac may have stayed at the Chelsea Hotel (many famous literary figures did) but to say he wrote "On the Road" there is simply incorrect.
Perhaps Google got its information about "On the Road" and the Chelsea Hotel from the Wikipedia entry, which cites a USA Today article, not a scholarly source. Ironically, the correct information is easy to find on Google.

Apr. 09 2012 10:00 PM
Elisa from White Plains

While I realize the style is different, it reminds me of seeing Keith Haring's pictures in the subways so many years ago.

Apr. 09 2012 09:18 PM

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