in the Public Realm
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Many important things in life happen by design and many equally significant things happen in a fortuitous manner. Several months ago we went to a lecture at the Center for Architecture, ran into a colleague and were bemoaning the state of design discussion in New York over a glass of wine. Who should we happen upon but Charles Renfro one of the most delightful and witty architects we know. Instantly we dreamed up a Friday night lecture series pairing an architect with a journalist lubricated with a custom designed libation and enlisted him as our ‘beta tester’. The man standing next to us at the reception immediately volunteered to sponsor the event... In two minutes Cocktails & Conversations was born. Nearly 200 people showed up who enjoyed their beverage, found the discussion stimulating and stayed till the end. We are now planning a series for the Spring. In honor of Charles Renfro, we are featuring his firm, Diller Scofidio Renfro this month.

Last Saturday morning we were at the Park Avenue Armory. It was originally built as the home base for the soldiers of the 7th Regiment where they would meet, change into war garb in baronial company rooms designed by the architectural giants of the day: Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White, the Herter Brothers,and more recently Herzog & de Meuron, and practice defending Manhattan. Since the Upper East Side is protected somewhat differently these days, the building has been repurposed into a cultural facility. The former company rooms are now glorious conference rooms where we found ourselves meeting. The drill hall itself is used as a cultural venue, often housing art installations.

During a break we chanced to open its door and found Ann Hamilton in the process of installing The Event of a Thread inside. To see the grand space transformed with a roomful of swings in front of a billowing white curtain was breathtaking. We had met Ann when we were both working on the San Francisco Public Library. We immediately renewed our relationship and she became our featured artist. It caused us to think back to our first encounter with the creation of a work of public art. We were fortunate to have a ringside seat as the City of Dallas christened it’s Arts District and Ellsworth Kelly and Eduardo Chilleda provided them with two signature works to anchor it. For us, Dallas is when we began to understand power of public art and the integration of cultural history into it. We never imagined that that chance experience would transform our lives so significantly. Almost all discussions about creative placemaking usually refer to public art, architecture and cultural history and never mention ‘happy accidents’ which is our mind is the fourth component. This issue is about serendipity.

Abby Suckle, President

The Public Art Collection itself in Dallas dates back to the early 80's. It was part of the implementation of the master plan which created the Arts District. City leaders were understandably nervous about it at the time as it is one thing to decree a cluster of facilities and quite another to create them and anchor them to the cultural history of the city.

This month we wanted to highlight a few of the more recent works in the Dallas Public Art Collection that refer to Dallas’ unique history. Fair Park, for instance, is the site of the Texas Centennial Exhibition and home to its Music Hall; Dallas Sculptor David Newton recreated two of the original 1926 art deco pieces, Tenor and Contralto.

Love Field, Dallas’ original airport is in the process of being modernized with a large public art component in the works. Already installed is Sherry Owen’s Back in a Moment with its thematic reference to Aviator Moss Lee Love in whose memory the airport was named.

Celia Alvarez Munoz’ photo mural Orientaciones is in the rotunda ceiling of Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta’s Latino Cultural Center. And, Brad Oldham’s three part The Traveling Man Series is inspired by Deep Ellum, the old warehouse and railroad district famous for its nightlife and many jazz clubs.

Orientaciones (2004) Celia Alvarez Munoz
Photo courtesy of City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs

Tenor and Contralto (2011) David Newton
Photo © Lee Ann Torrans

Back in a Moment (2012) Sherry Owens
Photo courtesy of City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs

The Traveling Man - Waiting on a Train (2009) Brad Oldham
w/ Brandon Oldenburg. Photo courtesy of the Artist

Featured Site:
Design Architect: Gabellini Sheppard Associates
Photo © Peter Murdock

It’s that time of year again. Everyone we ever met wants to reconnect. We get invited to parties from companies we barely heard of, and attend office parties for firms that we thought about working at, our inbox overflows with e-cards from sales reps, long-lost relatives decamp to our fair city from distant locales whose idea of a fun time consists of visiting every museum in New York in two days. Drinks are poured. Emails exchanged. And we vow to keep in touch more often.

So, for those of you who can’t make it to Rockefeller Center, here are a few highlights including a picture of the now shuttered Rainbow Room.

Paul Manship
Photo courtesy cultureNOW

Jacques Carlu, Renovation H3 Hardy Collaborative
Photo courtesy of the Architect

Cocktails & Conversations Don’t worry if you missed the event. You can watch the vido online.
Photo courtesy of the Architect



Artist Ann Hamilton is celebrated for creating large-scale installations weaving assemblages of text (written and verbal) with objects into interactive environments both ephemeral and permanent. In addition to the many exhibitions she has completed, she has also had half a dozen public art commissions which allow her to explore the blur from art into architecture beginning with The San Francisco Public Library.

As the first library which had an electronic card catalog, the 50,000 old paper cards were no longer necessary. Each card was annotated with a quote from the book described on the card, or from another book associated with that title. Representing the diverse community that is served by the San Francisco Public Library system, nearly two hundred scribes annotated their selected cards in more than a dozen languages. They were plastered onto the three floors of public space.

Several years later she collaborated with Michael Van Valkenburgh on Teardrop Park in Battery Park City, where she deals with our relation to the landscape by creating folds of bluestone rocks that render geologic incident. At Brown University with Toshiko Mori, she designed a carpet is about movable type and literacy. And most recently, The Event of a Thread is about crossings of the near at hand and the far away.

The Event of a Thread (2012) Park Avenue Armory
Photo © James Ewing

Ice Walls (2004) Teardrop Park, New York, NY
w/ Michael Mercil. Photo courtesy of the Architect

Ground (2010) Pembroke Hall, Brown Univ., Providence, RI
Architect: Toshiko Mori Photo © Warren Jagger

Untitled Wall Mural (1996) Public Library, San Francisco, CA
Architect Pei Cobb Freed. Photo © Timothy Hursley


Diller Scofidio Renfro is one of the rare architectural practices which blends art installations with exhibition design with architecture. The firm began by creating many exhibitions and gradually expanded in scale with the Brasserie and the Blur Building. This was an architecture of atmosphere—a fog mass resulting from natural and manmade forces. Water was pumped from Lake Neuchatel, filtered, and shot as a fine mist through 35,000 high-pressure nozzles. A smart weather system read the shifting climatic conditions of temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction and regulates water pressure at a variety of zones. Upon entering Blur, the visitor donned raingear and visual and acoustic references were erased.

In New York, they have several significant projects completed and underway that reinvented the urban landscape. They are the architects on the High Line which transformed the elevated railroad track into an urban park. The Park has become wildly popular and is credited with invigorating West Chelsea and anchoring development on the far west side. They have been the architects on the major renovation of Lincoln Center which has included the public spaces, new facilities for Julliard, and the redesign of Alice Tully Hall. There are many museums: the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and the Broad under construction in Los Angeles as well as temporary pavilions for the Hirshorn.

Blur Building, Neufachatel, Switzerland (2002)
Photo courtesy of the Architect

School of American Ballet, New York, NY (2007)
FX Fowle Associate Architect, Photo © Iwan Baan

High Line New York, NY (2011)
Photo © Iwan Baan

Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, MA (2006)
Photo © Iwan Baan