As Time Goes By: Locost Queue Brings Old Clocktower to Life

Craft & Design
As Time Goes By: Locost Queue Brings Old Clocktower to Life


Photo courtesy of Mitch Waxman
Photo courtesy of Mitch Waxman

A clocktower stands at the intersection of two very major roads and one end of a 3,000-foot-long bridge of the borough’s namesake, in Queens, NYC. This 14 story, approximately 210-foot tall building, completed in 1927, was the tallest structure in the area until the One Court Square building was completed in 1990. So for over 60 years this former Bank of Manhattan structure was as high up as you could get in the borough of Queens.

While offices are scattered throughout the upper eleven stories of the building, there are also many vacancies and the giant three-story chamber that is the ground floor where the bank once operated is unoccupied. That is until an arts organization stepped in and proposed an exhibition to utilize the “vacated space” of the limestone-supported main entrance. And also the clocktower atop the building.

Locost Queue

Meet artist-maker Chris Jordan (or simply CJ) and his project Locost Queue, a spinning carousel projecting human silhouettes depicting daily population fluctuations of NYC:

(this animated GIF speed does not show the projection in real-time)

CJ looked at recent rates of population increase and decrease, accounting for births, deaths, and migrants moving into the boroughs. In a city that already accounts for 8.2 million inhabitants, to lose 152/day and to add 343/day still results in a net gain of around 70,000 people a year! That’s a truly staggering thought when you try to contemplate what is needed for a city to grow at that rate. Yet every evening from dusk to midnight apparitions of those souls are projected inside this otherwise abandoned clocktower.


CJ and his assistant Enki photographed passers-by in the lead up to the project, for a total of 21 silhouettes. Printed on one 5-foot long piece of transparency, they are themselves a mere drop in the bucket of this borough of 2.25 million, but also nod to the varying body shapes, sizes, and statures that make Queens the most diverse county in the United States.

Working with a paltry budget that would not even purchase one evening’s stay at some NYC hotels, CJ cobbled together the hardware necessary to conduct a 360° projection of light. This included hacking a power supply from a conference phone; modifying a hula hoop to hold the aforementioned transparency (using shower hooks no less); mounting the four-way lamp that he bought from a local film industry surplus seller onto a tripod that he got for free at an annual Geek Xmas tech swap; calculating the throws necessary to use fresnel lenses salvaged from overhead projectors; and many other creative reuses of everything from lumber to mounting hardware, sourced from previous project builds.

The control box which regulates the speed of the carousel. Only the #2 pot, rated at 10KΩ, is needed for this installation. It was salvaged from a previous build.
The control box which regulates the speed of the carousel. Only the 10KΩ #2 pot is needed for this installation. The box itself was salvaged from a previous build.
The fresnel lenses are mounted in such a way to give each lens independent focus, with several degrees of articulation.
The fresnel lenses are mounted in such a way to give each lens independent focus, with several degrees of articulation.

In the end the result of projected souls spinning in a clocktower over 200 feet high up in the air is mesmerizing. And even though the building has recently been eclipsed in height by boons in condo development and civic government architecture, the clocktower itself can still be seen from many vantages after sunset, including as far as away as Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and likely from Manhattan itself. For a city whose nickname of Gotham conjures up idealized and even romanticized notions of NYC as a place of noir and constant flux, Locost Queue is a maker-made piece of public art that reinforces this perception in a subtle, but powerful way.

Photo by Enki
Photo by Enki showing the view from the clocktower, which makes me wonder from how far away can one see the silhouettes in the clocktower.

Locost Queue is on view every evening from dusk to midnight through March 13, 2013, located here in Queens, NYC. Take the N/Q/7 subways to Queensboro Plaza and walk east to see the projection from street level – look up! Or take the N/Q trains one more stop to 39 Avenue and you can view the tower from the elevated tracks.

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I'm an artist & maker. A lifelong biblioholic, and advocate for all-things geekathon. Home is Long Island City, Queens, which I consider the greatest place on Earth. 5-year former Resident of Flux Factory, co-organizer for World Maker Faire (NYC), and blogger all over the net. Howdy!

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