PLEXIGLAS® water tower in New York by Tom Fruin

© Matthew Pugliese

The most colorful water tower in New York

Tom Fruin transformed an old water tower into a modern work of art using around a thousand of leftover pieces of colorful PLEXIGLAS®.

New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park offers a breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline. This already impressive backdrop is made even more fascinating by a special water tower: This tower is not made of concrete or wood, but is lined with colorful PLEXIGLAS® instead, or to be more precise ACRYLITE® – the brand name under which PLEXIGLAS® is sold on the American continent.

Art that represents its environment

One product, two brands

The brand acrylic glass from Röhm is produced worldwide – in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia it is sold under the brand name PLEXIGLAS®, while on the American content the brand is called ACRYLITE®.

The art work was created by Tom Fruin, a New York artist who has been working with recycled materials for decades. “When I moved to New York 20 years ago, I collected trash and detritus as a way of marking and understanding my new surroundings,” says Fruin. He started out by creating patchwork quilts and flags from these materials in order to evoke traditional American craftsmanship. Over time, his work progressed from small wall hangings to large-scale architectural pieces. “I prefer to use salvaged materials. I find that the limited pallet of reclaimed acrylic more accurately represents the city in which the sculpture is installed,” he says, explaining his choice of materials. “The city and the people are the inspiration so it makes sense to use materials gathered from my surroundings.”

Colorful part of the skyline

PLEXIGLAS® offers the most dynamic and interesting colors to accurately reflect the vibrancy and variety of colors of the city.

Tom Fruin

For the water tower on the roof of the main building of Brooklyn Bridge Park, Fruin used roughly 1,000 scraps of the brand acrylic glass. “PLEXIGLAS® offers the most dynamic and interesting colors to accurately reflect the vibrancy and variety of colors of the city,” comments Fruin. After all, the brand acrylic glass can be dyed very precisely and is therefore available in many different colors and with various surfaces. Therefore, Fruin used many different types of PLEXIGLAS® for the water tower, from GS and XT, through Textures, all the way up to the various other scrap pieces left over from the production of the brand acrylic glass. These vibrant colors make the sculpture stand out among the rather gray high-rise buildings dominating the Brooklyn skyline.

The sculpture is part of the Icon series, in which Fruin turns previously overlooked buildings into colorful pieces of art, including water towers as well as small buildings and wind mills. “I hope that people who see the work have a special experience and perceive their surroundings with more awe and awareness,” says Fruin. Today, the installations can be admired in several cities around the world, including in Jeju (South Korea) and Vienna.

Steel sheets and PLEXIGLAS®

Fruin constructs all of his sculptures from acrylic glass and steel frames. The artist has developed his own method for fastening the PLEXIGLAS® sheets to the steel frame that outlines the individual pieces. First, he lasers the desired shape into a sheet of steel and then screws the individual sheets together by hand. The PLEXIGLAS® is then clamped into the created gaps. He not only builds the facades of his artwork using this method, but also creates details such as ladders or a skylight that can be opened.

Four of Tom Fruin’s sculptures currently grace Brooklyn. / © YouTube Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Eye-catching by day and night

The black steel creates a strong contrast to the colorful PLEXIGLAS® sheets, which shine brightly by day and night. At night the full effect of the water tower is revealed, since it is illuminated from within. Just as he used recycled materials for the tower, Fruin also values sustainability when it comes to illumination: The solar batteries used store energy by day and feed it to the spotlights installed at the bottom of the water tower at night. The spotlights are not visible from the outside, however, as the PLEXIGLAS® lets light shine through without being fully transparent. The good light-conducting properties of the material distribute the light evenly across the entire surface of the water tower, creating an impressive interplay of colors in front of the breathtaking Manhattan skyline.