Kentile Floors Sign to Light Up One Last Time
GOWANUS — Brooklyn’s beloved Kentile Floors sign will shine one more time this week before its removal and relocation.
The sign, which for decades has towered over the neighborhood from an old factory on Ninth Street near Second Avenue, will be illuminated through high-powered projectors and 3D imaging after dark on Friday.
The display, described as “a parting kiss” to “an icon on the brink of disassembly,” is a collaborative project from the Vanderbilt Republic, a Gowanus-based creative agency, and Karl Mehrer of K2imaging, a local business that specializes in digital projection, said George Del Barrio, the Republic's founder and creative director.
Last week, Ely Cohen, who owns the Ninth Street building, confirmed that the sign would be removed because of “long-deferred maintenance of the sign, the dilapidated condition of the warehouse roof, and ongoing structural issues in the building.”
But after an outcry from residents and City Councilman Brad Lander, Cohen agreed to donate the enormous red letters to the Gowanus Alliance, a neighborhood improvement group that will find a new home for it.
Using a pair of Digital Projection DPI Titan Super Quad 20K projectors, the sign will be animated on June 20 for “Manifest Destiny,” Del Barrio’s 15-minute program that will loop through the evening.
Del Barrio is still working on the display, but he plans to include text from the Declaration of Independence and maybe even a cat video or two.
“The idea here is to use the tapestry of the world around us as a canvas,” said Del Barrio, 38, who is also the founding director of Gowanus Loft, a project space for performance and installations.
Del Barrio previously collaborated with K2imaging and filmmaker Tim Bartlett to light up the sign in May. At the time, the team did not know the sign’s Ninth Street location would soon be history.
But the projection will be a bit different this time. Scaffolding and beams installed on the sign’s formerly flat surface create new challenges in designing a template that can be projected and viewed without too much distortion.
Del Barrio has three days to perfect the image — and he’s willing to experiment.
“I’m going to have some fun with this,” he said.
But Del Barrio isn't ruing the removal of the Kentile Floors sign, which can be seen from the Gowanus Loft’s space on Ninth Street. He said its removal won’t change the history of the neighborhood, but rather signify a move into the future, he said.
“If it was a McDonald’s logo," he said, "would we be going crazy over it?”
He hopes the display will be a conversation starter for people in the neighborhood — whether it’s about the changing landscape of Gowanus, booming real estate development or just the enormity of the iconic sign.
“You have to acknowledge that change is coming,” he said.