Artists across the world are contributing ideas and works of art to help make our built environment more sustainable. In south Florida, improvements to reduce electrical use in building and smart uses of rain water are particularly important. Most art projects are equal parts reality and poetry to remind the public about the need to change and a symbol to tenants or buyers about the environmental concerns of the owner.
As lack of basic exercise has contributed to a decline in American health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trust and others have funded research and programs to increase healthy living in the cities. Active Living by Design and Health Impact Project are programs looking at urban design, building design and urban policies that encourage exercise. Many of Knight Foundation “Cities Challenge” and “Art Challenge” grants results in more activity use of the city.
These ideas match with the desires of new residents and employee to activate downtowns. Instead of only the gym, the new generation enjoys using the public spaces of the city for walking, biking, jogging, dancing and games. Below are public art projects that developers might consider to expand physical (and social) activity around the site and building.
Urban Swings: Boston and Montreal
Encourage Walking on Stairs
Watch/Listen to the Video of Piano Stairs in Sweden
In 1994, the City of West Palm agreed with the family of Henry Rolfs, Sr. to honor his contribution to the City with a sculpture in the median of Okeechobee Blvd. Artist Marsha Montoya Meyer made the statue that welcomes visitors to West Palm at the intersection of Tamarind/Parker and Okeechobee.
Mr. Rolfs and his partner David Paladino were responsible for consolidating all the 77 acres that eventually became City Place, the Kravis Center and the Convention Center. Without their visionary purchases, it is very unlikely that City Place would exist. Unfortunately for Rolfs and Paladino, the economic downturns of the late 1980s and early 1990s ruined their opportunity to complete their vision and the land was acquired by the City.
In our community discussions on public art, we learned that most people don’t know anything about the sculpture. If they have thought about it, then most assume it is second memorial to Henry Flagler. Part of the reason for the lack of knowledge is that sculpture is undersized for the site and almost no pedestrians cross at this location to learn about Mr. Rolfs.
Given the contribution of Mr. Rolfs, the sculpture seems better located near or in City Place. Pedestrian could enjoy the artwork and read information about Mr. Rolfs’ life and activities in West Palm.
What do you think? Should the sculpture be moved or remain in place?
In every city, county and state, artwork by some of the long time resident artists with exceptional careers not been purchase for the public art collection. These artists are the artistic foundation of the community and deserve to be celebrated and remembered long into the future.
Some of these artists work in durable materials suitable for public art, but many are painters, printmakers, photographers, filmmakers, digital artists, etc. Others like ceramic artists may never have worked a large scale. But with today’s many fabrication techniques, their artworks can be transformed into the public works.
An “Honors Public Art Program” would select a living or deceased artist each year to purchase/commission and display her/his artwork in public space or buildings. In City Hall, a permanent board would recognize the artists commissioned in the program.
For example, a similar program was operated in Seattle in the 1980s & 1990s. Below are two examples of public artworks by prominent resident painters: Jacob Lawrence and Michael Spafford. Lawrence is porcelain enamel and Spafford is concrete panels.
The artwork of Bruce Helander, inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2014, is used for the header.
Twice in our community dialogues, West Palm Beach residents reminded the groups of the 2009 idea by former Mayor Lois Frankel to commission a troll sculpture under the Royal Palm Bridge. Idiosyncratic projects like a troll can be very popular. Many of the famous sculptures, such as the Statue of Liberty, were considered very strange until the sculptures earned a positive reputation.
The most famous troll is in Seattle under the Aurora Bridge. The Fremont Troll was created by Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter & Ross Whitehead in 1990.
Of course other trolls exist…………………..
Comment: Love the idea of a mythical creature under the bridge, but don’t find a troll particularly appropriate to West Palm Beach. Both Denmark, and Seattle have misty woodlands, environments that might be imagined habitats to trolls. Perhaps if the community decides to have something under the bridge, a giant sea dragon, the old man of the sea,Neptune, a wistful seated mermaid, and a merman emerging from the water, or some such might be good options.
Perhaps you could have a contest to get residents involved in what it should be.
Since the beginning of architecture, front door or entrance has been a primary location for symbolic, religious or decorative elements. When mansions, hotels and office buildings were invented, the entrance sequence from plaza, staircase, doorway and lobby became the first experience and taste of the building. This sequence is always complete with art, gardens, lighting and decor of all types. With the invention of plate glass, the outdoor plaza to indoor lobby merged together especially at night.
Although not an official “Welcome to West Palm Beach” sign, the new “ZOO” sign at the Palm Beach Zoo tower adds to the city’s entrance on Summit Blvd. Part of the Public Art Master Plan will recognize some signs as important elements of the city and its history. For example the Hall Hardware “hammer” on South Dixie.
It may be possible to re-make great historic signs from the City’s past.
If you have more ideas for public art in the West Palm Beach parks, please go online and participate in the “MindMixer” community ideas website. The site is part of the Parks Master Plan for citizen input by consultant GreenPlay.
The Art in Public Art ordinance requires that most new buildings hire public artists to incorporate artworks into the building or site design. So we will look at the successful artworks in the architecture and landscape. In addition to the plazas and landscapes, key typical places include the tops or roofs, the entries and lobbies, the parking garage walls, the second floors and blank walls. The goals is find artistic work that enhance the value of the development for the owner and contribute to the energy and artistic reputation of the city.
The Building Tops
Residents and visitors to every city enjoy “looking up” when there is something there. Rather just a flat roof or a simple pyramid, a sculptural form or digital lighting patterns can distinguish the building and the larger cityscape vista. The artworks can be smoothly integrated or a surprising addition.
In the design of high density office or residential towers, frequently a parking garage fills the 2nd to 5th floors. The garage lives above the retail storefronts and and below the offices or apartments. Over the last 20 years, public art have been called into service to enliven the walls with huge artworks designed to let the fresh air enter the garage.
Other garages for developments are freestanding. The first image by artist Ned Kahn moves in the wind, sending patterns across the surface.
Instead of the walls to let the air flow, the structural walls or stairs become places for artistic action.