in the Public Realm
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Previous Newsletters Vol. 3 Issue 5 - May, 2013

You can tell it’s spring in New York because the street fairs come out of hibernation migrating from block to block every weekend until the weather changes. A few years ago we let the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce talk us into having a booth in one and lugged every map we had and a rickety folding card table to Third Avenue. As a ‘cultural focal point’ we were shoehorned between vendors of scented oils and and fried cheese. What began as a slight drizzle at 10 turned into severe thunderstorms two hours later; we watched all our paper rapidly disintegrate into mush under the deluge. It wasn’t pretty. Not a lot of drenched people turned out to be very interested in our rigorous documentation of the cultural changes in Lower Manhattan that day.

Since then we’ve avoided all similar opportunities pleading pressing alternative committments in distant locales. Against our better judgement, we let The New Museum cajole us into participating in their Ideas City Street Fest last Saturday. As soon as they mentioned the T Word (Tent) we overcame our trepidations and agreed to attend. And that is how we found ourselves standing on the Bowery distributing our brand new Boat tour map (printed on Friday) showing the extent of the storm surge, the AIA report on designing a more resilient city (also hot off the press) and the downtownNOW Map series (vintage). We knew it was an upgrade when our neighbors were dispensing organic kimchee and single source dark chocolate. It was everything that we thought street fairs should be: provocative, interesting, intelligent with lots of really intriguing booths that explored different parameters of our city. More importantly, the theme untapped capital set us thinking about revisiting the places we look at everyday to find the little known jewels hidden within.

Upwards of 750,000 people pass through Grand Central Terminal everyday; often we are among them. Ellen Driscoll’s elaborate mosaics line some of the tunnel walls. They have been there for almost 15 years. We see them and we don’t see them whenever we take a train. Brad Cloepfil has only built a single public building in New York City, the Museum of Arts & Design. While he lives mainly at the opposing end of the country in Portland, Oregon, he also maintains a New York office. So we didn’t realize that he considers himself a New York Architect enough to have joined our chapter of the AIA . We decided to both feature his firm, Allied Works Architecture and to invite him to share his ideas at our next Cocktails & Conversations on May 17.

For an art collection, we turned to Fort Myers. While Fort Myers’ 45 public artwork collection is admittedly modest, the city’s public art program finds itself in transition. This month, the City Council will consider replacing Fort Myers’ voluntary public art ordinance with one that mandates a percent for art on all municipal and private development projects which, if adopted, will provide a renewed commitment to public art at a time when the city is seeking to convert itself from a quaint, historical town into a historical-based convention destination built around a spectacular river basin that serves as a visual, cultural and social hub for both residents and visitors alike which is transformative for that city.

On another note, we love MoMA and often visit the museum for our 'cultural fix'. For us they set the standard for displaying architecture. They have been the most collegial and accommodating of partners. In fact, the Architectural Boat tours were begun in 2010 in conjunction with their Rising Currents Show. So, we were shocked and disheartened to find out that one of the most enlightened and creative of cultural institutions has feet of clay. We wish that they would recognize the untapped capital in the adjacent Folk Art Museum and reconsider the reckless and tone deaf decision to demolish Tod Williams and Billie Tsien’s exquisitely crafted and much lauded 12-year old building.

Abby Suckle, President

Fort Myers Public art collection is split between downtown in the River District and the Edison Ford Winter Estates where Thomas Edison & Henry Ford wintered at the turn of the Century. Edison worked at the lab which has been accurately restored; there are many sculptures of the former residents dotting the estate.

The newest public artwork in Ft. Myers is Fire Dance, the Dupont red proto-architectural tribute to the vibrancy and vitality of the riverfront mall known as Centennial Park.

But, it is really Parallel Park that has put Fort Myers on the map as a cultural destination. Dedicated on December 9, 2010, the 30,000-square-foot Marylyn Dintenfass installation has converted the mundane and utilitarian five-story Lee County Justice Center Parking Garage into a work of fine art. In fact, a number of out-of-town visitors have confused the facility for the fine art museum.

But since the installation of the 23 abstract expressionist panels, Parallel Park has become the subject of a monograph by Aliza Edelman, articles in ARTNews, NY Arts and even Parking Professional magazines, and a solo exhibition. It was also the recipient of the Americans for the Arts Public Art Network 2011 Year in Review Award.

Caloosahatchee Manuscripts (2001) Jim Sanborn
Fort Myers, FL. Photo courtesy of Thomas P. Hall.

Fire Dance (2011) David Black Fort Myers, FL.
Photo courtesy of Thomas P. Hall.

Edison Ford Estates Collection (1985) D.J. Wilkins
Fort Myers, FL. Photo courtesy of Thomas P. Hall.

Parallel Park (2010) Marylyn Dintenfass Fort Myers, FL.
Photo courtesy of JoAnn Sieburg-Baker.

Photo © Thomas Hall
Edison & Ford Winter Estates,
Thomas Edison's Lab
Fort Myers, Florida

Photo © Michael Moran
American Folk Art Museum,
Architect: Tod Williams &
Billie Tsien

AroundManhattanNOW Map
Rendering courtesy of the Architects.
4th Edition May, 2013
This map shows the extent of the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy.

Cocktails & Conversations

Friday, May 17th
6:30pm - 8:30pm

The Pairing:
Brad Cloepfil,
Allied Works Architecture
David Van Der Leer,
Van Alen Institute

Cocktails & Conversations pairs an architect and a critic, journalist, or curator. Of course, it wouldn’t be Friday night without a suitable beverage. Our Bartender, Toby Ceccini creates a custom cocktail in the spirit of the architects work. Join us at the Center for Architecture for the next in the series:



What draws us to Ellen Driscoll’s work is the richness and layered associations inspired by diverse sources such as architecture, the ancient memory arts, and primitive imaging techniques such as shadow play. Some of her recent sculptures are assembled out of plastic bottles, strung together or glued into models floating on rivers evocative of the surrounding post industrial cityscape.

Her permanent works are also anchored into the meaning of their settings. The 20 glass and mosaics that grace the underground corridors of Grand Central Terminal North pay homage to Paul Hellau’s depictions of constellations in the sky in the terminal upstairs. The work’s tableaux recount myths of the continents and their civilizations, the heavens, and the underworld. Looked at one by one, these scenes bring to life ancient tales of the birth of the world, the sun’s daily transit, the stars in their courses, and the fates and fortunes of mortals and deities.

Filament/Firmanent is in the atrium of the new addition to the Cambridge Public Library. The library itself is a specific building in a specific city, but it is also place-less in the sense that vectors of inquiry and response are sent to every point that the human mind can imagine. The “knuckle” situated at the very heart of the architecture is a space in which the flow of human traffic back and forth will form a choreographic warp and weft between the different spaces of the old and new library. It is therefore ideal for a metaphorical insertion of women’s historic contribution to civic life in the form of the oldest activities engaged in predominantly by women around the world--weaving and sewing. The security gates for the Kansas City Museum draws its imagery from the archives of the museum; below the intricate mosaic frieze is a laser cut panel into which hundreds of holes have been cut to reveal an image taken from an archival photograph of soldiers walking in file across a hill.

Filament/Firmament (2010) Cambridge, MA.
Cambridge Arts Council. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Aqueous Humour (2004) Boston, MA.
Boston Art Commission. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Pro Patria Mori, (2006) Kansas City, MO.
One Percent for Art Collection. Photo courtesy of the artist.

As Above, So Below (1998) MTA Arts For Transit.
New York, NY. Photo courtesy of MTA Arts For Transit.


Brad Cloepfil’s work is often described as a perfect synergy of poetic beauty and rigorous attention to detail. His buildings are expressive yet functional; they invite a gradual exploration of the carefully considered and beautifully crafted spaces.

Educated at the University of Oregon and then Columbia, he first became well known when he completed the renovation of an historic icehouse in Portland into the Wieden + Kennedy Ad Agency which anchored the rapidly gentrifying Pearl District. He then won the competition for the St Louis Contemporary Art Museum besting a group of world class architects including Herzog & De Meuron, Peter Zumthor, and Rem Koolhaas.

More recently, in Denver’s Clyfford Still Museum, for example, he explores how light affects the experience of viewing the paintings by creating gallery spaces that complement the spirit of the artworks. The geometric qualities of the light screens, for instance, relate to the jagged edges and primary colors on the canvases evoking a harmonious relationship between the paintings and the museum surrounding them.

Clyfford Still Museum (2011) Denver, CO. Allied Works Arch.,
Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architects. Photo © J. Bitterman.

Seattle Art Museum (2007) Seattle, WA. Allied Works Arch.
Photo courtesy of the Architect.

National Music Centre of Canada.Calgary, AB.
Allied Works Architecture. Rendering Courtesy of the Architect.

Caldera Arts Center (2004) Sisters,OR.
Allied Works Architecture. Photo courtesy of the Architect.
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