Roosevelt Island Ventilation Structure

Double Take

Diana Cooper
Street-level view of ventilation structure with blue, gray, white, and black mosaic artwork featuring a geometric design on the façade.
"Double Take" (2023) © Diana Cooper, LIRR Roosevelt Island Ventilation Structure Station. Photo: Paul Takeuchi

About the project

Located on Roosevelt Island, the permanent artwork by Diana Cooper, Double Take, is visible from the F train subway stop and is part of the East Side Access project that brought Long Island Rail Road service to Grand Central Madison in Manhattan. Cooper was initially inspired by the visual experience of traveling through the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel and moving from an artificial underground environment into a world of steel, glass, and stone in Manhattan, with buildings set at different angles and punctuated by blue skies and waterways.

When she visited the MTA site, Cooper was struck by how similar her experience was to the one subway riders have when they arrive on Roosevelt Island. Riders leave the reflected light of the subway tunnel to scale long metallic escalators and emerge into a building with large glass windows and views of the island greenery and the blue of the East River.

Cooper’s designs consider the geometric forms found in the ventilation building, the Queensboro Bridge, the MTA subway station, Louis Kahn’s FDR Memorial, and the Roosevelt Island Tram, set against the grand backdrop of the East River. The wall designs marry abstract geometric shapes with organic forms, based on photographs she took of the river, as well as hand drawn imagery of fluid forms with colors that evoke the Island’s grass and trees. The gate design refers directly to the building’s louvers but is more colorful, playful, and permeable. Her hope is that people will feel transported smoothly and delightfully from the canyons of the MTA to an island surrounded by a river, with mountains of skyscrapers as backdrop.

Diana Cooper explained, “On first visiting the site I was struck by its visual potential. One emerges from the subway to see sky, a bridge, water, a ventilation structure, and Manhattan behind it all. That’s quite a mix. I wanted to pull all these elements together and somehow capture in a single work the dynamic energy latent in the experience. My aim was to blend the rigid geometric elements with fluid color to capture the play of light on the water especially. It was an exciting project that opened up new avenues in my artistic practice.”

About the artist

Diana Cooper is a Brooklyn-based mixed-media artist. Her work has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum, MOMA/PS 1, the Brooklyn Museum and other museums and galleries across the United States and Europe. In 2007 she was the subject of a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland.  She has received the American Academy in Rome Prize, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Joan Mitchel Foundation, and Anonymous Was a Woman. Her project “Out of the Corner of My Eye” (2008) for the New York City Percent for Art Program at the Jerome Parker Campus in Staten Island was named one of the top public art projects of the year by Americans for the Arts.