Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How a park should be

A park should be a public space that attracts the public. It should bring people in, either through activity or attractions, so that it is busy and full of life.

The capital city in my state has recently unveiled a large swath of public park space thanks to the depression of an interstate highway. The public space that has been created does not invite wandering, hanging around, or thoughts of grandeur. It doesn't challenge or engage. It is just pretty green space.

I wish they had talked to the folks who created Millennium Park in Chicago. Earlier this month the family and I went to the Windy City to both visit this grand town, see their grandparents who flew in from south of the Mason-Dixon line, and watch their dad run the Chicago Marathon.

Millenium Park has two of the best large scale public art I have seen. One is the Crown Fountain. Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, it consists of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project video images of faces of folks from Chicago citizens. For a while they are just on the towers, sometimes smiling, other times just looking out when all of a sudden they pucker up and they "spout" water.

While we were there people danced under the spout, a groom carried his bride under a spout and people just cheered out loud as the water rained down. It was one of those big communal experiences that I wish could happen in every city, town and neighborhood. It is art that brings people together.

Then there is the Cloud Gate, otherwise known as "The Bean". This huge stainless steel structure/sculpture brought you literally into it. You walked underneath, laughed at your reflection, smiled at strangers' reflections and marveled at how the sky and buildings behind you were in front of you, part of the skyline. It was beautiful, engaging and fun.


Heather said...

Oh my. They are awesome. I bet my kids would laugh hysterically at the water spouting from the people on the big sign.

Jenn in Holland said...

Fantastic. I have always wanted to go there. Now, I really, really, really, REALLY want to go!