May 21, 2008 - Creative Time - Playing the Building: David Byrne Installation
May 21, 2008

Playing the Building: David Byrne Installation

Playing the Building
Installation rendering by Danielle Spencer, 2008

Playing the Building: An Installation by David Byrne
May 31 – August 10, 2008
Opening Reception: Saturday, May 31, 6 – 8PM

The Battery Maritime Building
10 South Street, NYC
Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays
Noon – 6PM (Free)


Creative Time presents Playing the Building, a 9,000-square-foot, interactive, site-specific installation by renowned artist David Byrne. The artist will transform the interior of the landmark Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan into a massive sound sculpture that all visitors are invited to sit and “play.” The project will consist of a retrofitted antique organ, placed in the center of the building’s cavernous second-floor gallery, that will control a series of devices attached to its structural features—metal beams, plumbing, electrical conduits, and heating and water pipes. These machines will vibrate, strike, and blow across the building’s elements, triggering unique harmonics and producing finely tuned sounds.

As Byrne explains: “Typical parts of buildings can be used to produce interesting sounds. Everyone is familiar with the fact that if you rap on a metal column, for example, you will hear a ping or a clang, but I wondered if the pipes could be turned into giant flutes, and if a machine could make girders vibrate and
produce tones.”

Playing the Building marks the first time in decades that the second floor of the Battery Maritime Building will be accessible to the public. The space will be open and free on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays throughout the summer of 2008. Everyone will be invited to sit at the organ, tap on the keys, and create a unique array of sounds that travel through the space.

“David is most widely known as a musician, but he is an extraordinary writer, visual artist, and director who resists categorization, plays around with grey zones, and favors a life of broad creativity,” says Anne Pasternak, curator of the exhibition and President and Artistic Director at Creative Time. “Playing the Building is deceptive in its simplicity; it’s layered with rich meaning relating to human nature, our contemporary relationship to place and sound, and considerations of shifts in culture at large.” Pasternak’s interview with Byrne is available on

David Byrne and Creative Time will invite guest musicians to challenge the project through a series of performances. A schedule of performances and artist talks will be available by the end of May at

Playing the Building was originally presented and commissioned by Färgfabriken, Stockholm in 2005.

Special thanks to the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), The Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation, and The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Additional promotional support provided by The River to River Festival.

Creative Time is funded through the generous support of corporations, foundations, government agencies, and individuals. Additional funding provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency; and New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn.

Creative Time
Share - Playing the Building: David Byrne Installation
  • Share
Click to subscribe to e-flux and be the first to receive the latest news on international exhibitions and all e-flux related announcements
Close Player
Live Now
Live: An evening of discussions, screening, tour, and live music
Subscribe to e-flux
Be the first to receive the latest news on international exhibitions and all e-flux related announcements.
Subscribe to architecture
Explore the most recent content from e-flux architecture and urbanism
Subscribe to e-flux programs
Keep up-to-date on all upcoming talks, screenings, and exhibitions at e-flux in New York