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Google Building’s Scaffolding Shows Chelsea’s Past

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.
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 )
It then wraps around the scaffolding onto Eighth Avenue to show the neighborhood's transformation from industrial to boho -- poodles, French bulldogs and all.
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 )
Then the cartoon pays homage to Chelsea's many and diverse art galleries.
Then the cartoon pays homage to Chelsea's many and diverse art galleries. ( Abbie Fentress Swanson )
Followed by the Chelsea Market.
Followed by the Chelsea Market. ( Abbie Fentress Swanson )
The old Port Authority building is home to Google's New York headquarters.
The old Port Authority building is home to Google's New York headquarters. ( Abbie Fentress Swanson )

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.

( Abbie Fentress Swanson )
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.
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 )
The mural finishes on W. 16th Street with Dark Igloo's signature ending, 'Have a cool day.'
The mural finishes on W. 16th Street with Dark Igloo's signature ending, 'Have a cool day.' ( Abbie Fentress Swanson )
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