in the Public Realm
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Previous Newsletters Vol. 2  Issue 5 - May, 2012

Arizona has been in the news a lot lately. Scarcely a day goes by where every hot button social issue of our time plays out upon the Arizona landscape. The endless loop of images of guns, of immigrants, of vigilante justice punctuates our nightly news and is creating an alternate reality that reinforces the 'redness of the red state'. In a sense, it's causing people to zone out, to lose sight of the big picture and see it as yet another trouble spot sandwiched in the national consciousness between Florida and Mali.

To us, this is not what Arizona is truly about. None of these pictures focus on we find inspiring. We wanted to reframe the discussion, to look at what is wonderful about the place and why vibrant, exciting, creative and interesting people would want to move there. To start with, you cannot escape the picture postcard quality of the desert landscape and the sheer majestry and poetry of the natural setting. People who lived here had a 'light footprint on the land'; they lived in the rocks, they took shelter under tents. And they traveled very long distances under a harsh blazing sun. We thought about the landscape, the light, the infrastructure, the imagery of tents and fences and we turned to Phoenix as the 'Capital of Desert Country' for this issue. Take a look at its wonderful public art collection. Hovering over downtown is 'Her Secret is Patience' by Janet Echelman. A few blocks away is another incredible tensile structure, roofing over the largest reading room in North America by will bruder + PARTNERS. And what you'll find is that Phoenix is really on the cutting edge of technology, of sustainability, of integrating art into architecture and it's not a backwater at all.

Abby Suckle, President
Featured Art Collection:

It was hard to select a few projects that illustrate the depth and breadth of this collection because there is a lot to choose from. We wanted to highlight a range of pieces that are both recent and less recent, that address the landscape and Arizona culture.

Phoenix has been focussing on infrastructure projects that pair Artists with Engineers to design pedestrian bridges. Spanning State Highway 51 are two utilizing different methods of sunscreening. The imagery for the Chain Link 'bridge' of Mountain Pass comes from the mountains beyond, different than at Paradise lane which features a basket weave of galvanized metal strips.

More recently, Phoenix has begun a citywide system of Park & Ride stations that integrate public art. Arizona Artist Mary Lucking created 'In a Big Country' to shelter commuters; they are vertical because the in the very early morning and late afternoon this is most effective for shading. This piece was inspired by the agricultural history of the area and refers the active ranches still in the community.

Sometimes simple moves change everything. We often think of public art as major insertions. But it can be something as straightforward as adding lighting. Here Paul Deeb completed an LED installation at the Hertzberger Theater. We thought that it would be interesting to compare it with Janet Echelman's tour de force which is also about light and cloudforms in the Phoenix sky.

Blues to Be There (2011) Paul Deeb
Photo courtesy of the Office of Phoenix Art & Culture

Mountain Pass (Nisbet) Pedestrian Bridge (1998)
Laurie Lundquist, HDR Engineering

In a Big Country 27th Avenue Park-and-Ride (2012)
Mary Lucking (Photo courtesy of the Artist)

Paradise Lane Pedestrian Bridge (1998)
Linnea Glatt, HDR Engineering
Photo Julienne Schaer

Brooklyn Bridge Park
Brooklyn, New York (2011)
Architect: Atelier Jean Nouvel
Landscape Architect:
Michael van Valkenburgh

Michael Rogol Photography

New York, New York
John G. Waite Associates
Since we live in New York, we couldn't resist sharing some of the wonderful sites we've recently added. Part of our mission is to make the inaccessible accessible. It can be a challenge to get inside the Tweed Courthouse if you're not affiliated with the Board of Education, and even more of a challenge to access the still in construction FDR Memorial. With our help, it's a 'piece of cake'.

New York, New York
Architect: Louis I Kahn


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Featured Artist: JANET ECHELMAN

Artist Janet Echelman began her career as a painter. She received a Fulbright to teach in India and shipped her paints there, but unfortunately, they never arrived. With nothing to work with and bronze casting prohibitively expensive, she looked at the local fishermen and wondered whether it was possible to use similar nets as a new approach to sculpture: a way to create volumetric form without heavy, solid materials. She began using nets to reshape urban airspace with monumental, fluidly moving sculpture that responds to environmental forces including wind, water, and sunlight. 'She Changes' in Porto, Portugal was the beginning of the series of large swooping funnel nets that include 'Her Secret is Patience' in Phoenix and 'Water Sky Garden' for the Vancouver Olympics. She is currently expanding her media and working on a large piece for Philadelphia's Dilworth Plaza which will feature curtains of colored mist coordinated with the below grade public transit.

Her Secret is Patience Phoenix, AZ (2009)
Photo Christina O'Haver

Tsunami 1.26 Sydney, Australia (2011)
Photo courtesy of the Artist

She Changes Porto, Portugal (2005)
Photo David Feldman

Water Sky Garden Richmond, BC (2009)
Photo Christina Lazar Schuler

Featured Architect: will bruder + PARTNERS

Will Bruder moved from Wisconsin to Phoenix to work for Paolo Soleri and stayed. In the mid 90's cities began to build new main libraries. Many things were happening that informed these buildings. There was the 'Barnes and Nobelization' of the public reading rooms. Card catalogues were moving online. People were bringing laptops into the buildings and began demanding internet access at all carrels. In very short order, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, and Phoenix came online. It is interesting to compare the tour de force of the Phoenix solution with the other buildings so that the great reading room with its million books and tensegrity roof structure. The Phoenix Library launched both the firm and the city on this national cultural arena. will bruder + PARTNERS went on to complete many other cultural buildings small and large. Local projects include the Deer Valley Rock Art Center, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and several branch libraries which continued to explore the integration of art into architecture with collaborations with James Turrell and James Carpenter, and inserting buildings into their desert settings. The recently completed Agave Library, for instance, was an attempt to give a small building a larger urban presence than its program and budget would allow and the solution was to create a 'false front' reminiscent of the frontier town.

Burton Barr Phoenix Central Library, Phoenix, AZ (1995)
Photo Bill Timmerman

Agave Library, Glendale, AZ (2009)
Photo Bill Timmerman
Deer Valley Rock Art Center, Deer Valley, AZ (1994)
Photo Will Timmerman
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Scottsdale, AZ (1999) Photo Bill Timmerman