in the Public Realm
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Previous Newsletters Vol. 3 Issue 12 - December, 2013

It's probably wishful thinking, but we fancy ourselves to be on the cutting edge of technology. We make a heroic effort to frequent listserves, attend meetups, scrutinize blogs, and 'check-in' at webinars with the desperate and possibly futile hope that we will glean some vital kernal of critical intelligence that will keep us current (and then some). Everyday we slog through the resulting deluge of information that has become our inbox. Which is how we discovered that Snapchat is considered the breakout product of 2013. The app has been widely adopted by millenials who use it to share many (perhaps not ready for primetime) life experiences with each other. The beauty of the conceit is that everything is of the moment, timed to vanish forever with no potentially compromising electronic debris eternally floating around cyberspace.

We admire people who are brave enough to tackle the ephemeral, as we have found it daunting because of the many permutations. Every public art collection, for instance, has a temporal component consisting of short-lived works, festivals, and performances. We thought it would be helpful to turn to Scottsdale's Public Art Program as a model to open the discussion. It's a midsized collection. Their temporary works have an online presence as robust as the permanent which is unusual. The two main venues used are the Civic Center and the Waterfront so one can see how different artists approach the same sites over time.

It goes without saying that many permanent artworks are not always permanent. We have been known to direct people to resited sculptures, dark light installations, silent soundworks and still videos. Under normal circumstances, municipal maintenance budgets are usually miniscule; moving components add an additional (and sometimes overwelming layer) of complexity. We are choosing two artists this month who are audacious enough to engage viewers through interactive pieces which are woven into architecture. Christopher Janney creates what he calls 'urban musical instruments'. Ned Kahn turns to the elements (wind, fog, fire, sand and water). We've posted videos of their works in motion. On another level,we have been looking at the work of many Landscape Architects and realized that landscape design can be quite subtle and extremely hard to photograph in a way that accurately captures the spirit of the insertion. The work of Andrea Cochran comes to mind as she often draws from the natural features of the site with minimalist and quite lovely design solutions. To us, capturing the ephemeral is about documenting the fragile, the fleeting, the understated and the transitory. It is a huge challenge.

Abby Suckle, President

Keeping with the theme of this issue, some of the more delicate permanent pieces in Scottsdale's collection include works of light and glass. Noteworthy are James Turrell's Knight Rise Skyscape in Will Bruder's Museum of Contemporary Art. Seattle Artist, Anna Skibska installed Golden Alchemy consisting of 90 glass globes hanging from the reading room ceiling of the Appaloosa Library.

The temporary program runs the gamut.

Canal Convergence is a biennial festival. It is centered on Scottsdale's Waterfront featuring innovative large scale installations and performances. There have been three cycles to date. Luminescence by the Experience Collaborative was a Spring Equinox 2013 piece consisting of phosphorescent bubbles that capture the energy of the Arizona sun causing them to glow at night.

Belle Art provides an opportunity for artists to alter and enhance the Bell Tower, the main gateway to Scottsdale Civic Center Mall. Eric Boyer's Oppulent Oneness is a series of wire mesh vessels suspended from the roof.

In Flux begun in 2010 is a collaboration with neighboring cities to create site specific artworks, many of them in vacant retail spaces. Platform is an opportunity for Arizona university students to create public artworks.

Golden Alchemy (2009) Anna Skibska Scottsdale, AZ
Photo © Bill Timmerman

Opulent Oneness (2013) Eric Boyer,
Scottsdale, AZ Photo © Sean Deckert

Knight Rise Skyspace (2001) James Turrell, Scottsdale, AZ will bruder architects, Photo © Sean Deckert

Luminescence (2013) The Experience Collective
Scottsdale, AZ Photo © Dayvid LeMmon


photo © Dayvid LeMmon

Dual Apparations 2013
Kendall Buster
Siemon Allen

photo © Bill Timmerman

Soleri Bridge + Plaza 2010
Paolo Soleri

Paolo Soleri who died last April, was probably best known for his utopian visionary city Arcosanti about 65 miles north of Phoenix. It is noted for incorporating ecology in the planning.

The 100-foot-long pedestrian bridge in Scottsdale, was designed about 10 years before it was actually constructed. The Pylons mark the calendar; every day at solar noon, a sliver of sunlight falls between them onto their shadows. This is the site for Scottsdale's Canal Convergence.


photo © Peter Bugg

Bubble Fountain 2009
Melissa McGurgan

Marco Rosichelli

It is hard to be more fleeting than the scented bubbles filled with citrus, mint and salt water that wafted down on the passersby during Belle Art in 2009

photo © David LeMmon

Entanglement 2013
Randy Walker


Date: Friday January 17
Time: 6:30 - 8:30 pm
Center for Architecture

The Pairing:
Belmont Freeman FAIA
Belmont Freeman Architects
Cathleen McGuigan
Architectural Record

Join us for our monthly conversation about Architecture & Design philosophies which are always totally provocative, very lively and lots of fun. The beverages are uniformly delicious, too.

An American of Cuban descent, Belmont Freeman has done extensive research, writing and lecturing on the subject of Cuban architecture as well as led architectural tours of Cuba. He has also had the opportunity to renovate the iconic Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagrams Building. Cathleen McGuigan is the Executive Editor of Architectural Record Magazine.


The Martinez
Photo©Center for Architecture

In his year as our bartender, Toby Cecchini has discovered that the alcoholic beverage of choice for architects is the Martini. Many of them are, like Hugh Hardy, so firmly wedded to this drink, that it is impossible to even tempt them with anything else. Consequently, he bit the bullet last month and treated us to a flight of them to compare its evolution: The original Martinez, the Fitty-Fitty from the 3-Martini Lunch 'Mad Men' era and today's Dry Martini. The recipes (and video) are online.



Christopher Janney came to public art via architecture and music in the late 60's. We've always found sound sculptures to be a challenge, because they are not always intuitive in order to be heard as the artist intended. What impressed us about Janney is that he conceives of sound as a visual medium, often referring to it as color; he sometimes provides 'instructions' or 'riddles' to show the possibilities. Through a series of Soundstairs, he began to explore the boundaries between music, sculpture and architecture creating what he termed urban musical instruments for viewers to 'play'. The Sonic Forests are groves of 'speaker' trees activated by the motion of viewers. The resulting 'music' is site appropriate. These are overlaid with additional components that change over time: light, color, and sometimes steam.

Circling at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport is a '21st century' interactive three dimensional labyrinth created from a colored glass spiral along a terrazzo path that is meant to be evocative both of the planes circling overhead and the passengers themselves circling through four concentric rings. Here the sensors that trigger lights and loudspeakers are embedded in the floor along with a riddle etched in the terrazzo telling visitors which path to take. Another airport project, Light Waves: Atlanta develops the concept further creating a 'light ballet' featuring changing lights over panes of colored glass along a long corridor accompanied by a score of native Georgian environmental sounds.

Whistle Grove: The National Steamboat Monument juxtaposes high-tech smokstacks with an authentic riverboat paddle. Here viewers activate jets of steam and stories of riverboat captains, voices of mean loading ships, and music from a calliope as they pass through the towers.

Circling (2005) Dallas, TX, Dallas Fort Worth Art Program
Photo© PhenomenArts, Inc.

Sonic Pass Blue (1999) Lehman College, Bronx, NY,
Photo© PhenomenArts, Inc.

Whistle Grove: The National Steamboat Monument Cincinnati, OH (2002) Photo© PhenomenArts, Inc.

Light Waves: Atlanta Atlanta Airport Art Program
Atlanta, GA Photo © PhenomenArts, Inc.


Ned Kahn has lived in the Bay Area for many years and spent much of it working at the Exploratorium. He was initially an apprentice to the Physicist Frank Oppenheimer. It may explain why his works integrate fluid dynamics, optics, acoustics, and other features of physics as well as forms and forces of nature: wind, fire, water, sand, and fog. He describes it as choreographing natural phenoma. What inspires us about Kahn's work is that many of his commissions come from architects for specific projects in addition to public agencies. Since it is rare for architects to entice a client into major art purchases as they either come at the end when the money runs out or are the first thing to be cut. We wanted to highlight a few collaborative projects.

Wind, for instance, plays a part in many pieces. It is frequently used to manipulate screens of moving elements that are incorporated into facades. Much of the time, but not always the motivation is aesthetic, where the artwork seeks to dissolve the boundary between architecture and atmosphere, linking the building to the ever-changing and normally invisible currents of air. The 5000 tilted aluminum veins that comprise Feather Wall at the Green Clinical Pavilion in San Antonio, for instance, does double duty as a sunscreen.

With Moshe Safdie Ned Kahn produced several pieces. Rain Oculus is a changing whirlpool in a raised plexiglas pool at the Marina Sands Hotel in Singapore where the water falls two stories. At peak flow rates there are 8000 gallons per minute falling through the atrium and 200 tons of water swirling around in the bowl. Rainbow Arbor at the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles uses the theme of fog to spray a curtain of mist along a 12' high curved wall in the garden. And Cloud Portal situated on the Embarcadero in San Francisco sprays a cloud of around the circular opening in the stacked horizontal sheets.

Rainbow Arbor (2008) Safdie Architects
Skirball Cultural Center Los Angeles, CA, Photo © Ned Kahn

Feather Wall (2012) Overland Partners | Architects, RTKL Associates, San Antonio, TX Photo © Ned Kahn

Cloud Portal (2012) San Francisco, CA
RHAA Landscape Architects, Photo © Ned Kahn

Rain Oculus (2011) Safdie Architects, Singapore
Photo ©Harvey Morrison


Once their practice gets to a certain size, most landscape architects rapidly jettison smaller residential jobs in favor of the more prestigious public commissions. Andrea Cochran shys away from that and consequently makes a concerted effort to keep a diverse set of projects in the office so that there will be the opportunity to explore many different project types at different scales from residential to affordable housing, wineries to schools. The focus is on the craft of building and the integration of landscape, art and architecture. The projects all share a strong commitment to sustainable principles without allowing them to overwelm the designs.

The competition winning scheme for Buhl Community Park located in the formerly bleak Allegheny Square facing the Pittsburgh Children's Museum is a was also designed in collaboration with Ned Kahn whose Cloud Arbor spewing mist provides the focal point. The sustainable park also features bioswales, which redirect rain water back into the gardens instead of funneling it into sewers. Clover planted among the grass produces nitrogen that helps to fertilize the soil.

The mission of The Nueva School near Stanford, which is to teach creative design thinking and design engineering to students in grades preK-8; the design of the landscape integrates indoor with outdoor classrooms and incorporates many sustainable features that the children can learn about. In contrast, the Alpha Omega Winery is about connecting to the land and creating a place to enjoy the wine that is grown there.

Alpha Omega Winery (2012) Michael Guthrie Architect, Rutherford, CA, Photo © Marion Brenner

Buhl Community Park (2012) Pittsburgh, PA, Cloud Arbor
Ned Kahn, Photo © Marion Brenner

The Nueva School (2007) Hillsborough, CA,
Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects Photo © Marion Brenner

Smith Cardiovascular Research (2012) San Francisco, CA
Jim Jennings + The Smith Group,Photo © Marion Brenner

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