The plaza island at Columbus Circle in New York is an example of urban and civic design at its best. Encircling the heart of this grand space is a subtle fountain system that has turned a busy traffic hub into a welcome gathering place for the city’s residents and visitors. Here, principal designer Claire Kahn Tuttle of WET Design in Sun Valley, Calif., describes the project and the philosophy the company brought to bear in bringing it to fruition.
Tradition has it that, in measuring the distance a place is from New York, the geographical tape measure is placed at the center of Columbus Circle. This makes it easy to see this southwest corner of Manhattan’s Central Park (and the intersection of Broadway, 59th Street and Eighth Avenue) as the true heart of the city.
A massive 70-foot obelisk topped by Gaetano Russo’s statue of Christopher Columbus has stood at the center of the bustling traffic circle since 1892, when it was installed to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the explorer’s arrival in the Americas. The circle itself was part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s
The avant-garde composer John Cage once said, “Art exists to make us aware of the very life we’re living.” I’ve always loved that statement because, as someone working to create works of art, the experiences of my own life have naturally been transferred into the way I’ve chosen to express myself – and, I hope, have enabled me to succeed in bringing other people to an awareness of experiences in their own lives.
For me, water is the key in these transferences: Even though I’m probably more often described as a sculptor of natural stone rather than as a watershaper, the dialogues I have with the materials I use and with those who observe the outcomes have always begun with the way I work with water.
I grew up in the Midwest on the banks of the Mississippi. As a child, I lingered on the untamed shores of the creeks, streams and rivers that laced across an otherwise developed and thoroughly mechanized landscape.
I would read or draw, stroll idly along a stream, or spend hours building a raft or dam. This was well before I’d begun to think about my relationship with water in any sort of artistic way, but there’s no question that those experiences remain at the heart of my passion for working within this
Most people know Maya Lin for her bold design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, but watershapers in particular should become familiar with a range of her other works as well. For nearly 15 years, reports William Hobbs, his company has been involved in producing intricate water effects for the famous artist, whose works draw fascinating connections between observers and the mysteries of time and nature.
The marriage of water and art can be extremely powerful and evocative, especially in the hands of a great designer. One who has taken the use of water to sublime and fantastic levels is Maya Lin, the artist who rose to prominence as a
Part I: Setting the Course
Theatrical vitality has to do with structuring stories and creating dramatic narratives that establish sensations of expectation, surprise and reward. It also involves the development of sympathetic, interesting characters as well as engagement in “the moment” – the feeling that a special and wonderful entertainment experience is unfolding before the audience in a specific time and place.
Mastering all of that is a tall order under ordinary circumstances, so you can imagine how we felt in trying to help make it happen on the exposed, unpredictable stern deck of Oasis of the Seas – a prestigious ship that currently claims the title of world’s largest cruise liner.
Fluidity – a Los Angeles-based water design studio – pursues unique, progressive projects for an international clientele that includes architects, landscape architects, civic institutions and real estate developers. Through the years, we’d had considerable experience with theatrical
By Dave Garton
The warmth and solid heft of aged, cast brass are the hallmarks of the antique rice cooker — a treasure acquired in India several years ago — that now makes a statement to visitors approaching a modern Colorado home's front door.
Forged more than 150 years ago using the same techniques employed in making
Decorative-concrete artist Tommy T. Cook has built a reputation for being able to create almost anything from concrete using an array of highly refined and boldly artful processes. In this feature, he demonstrates a portion of that skill by describing how he uses the gargantuan Gunnera plant to craft watershapes in which replicas of the plant’s outsized leaves serve as uniquely natural fountain basins and spillways.
Ask anyone who’s tried and it’s almost certain you’ll hear that replicating nature isn’t easy. That hasn’t stopped artists throughout history from trying, however, or from making natural forms an influential source of artistic imagination and ambition.
The great thing about using nature for inspiration is that it’s all around us and all we need to do to draw on it is open our eyes, make good choices and decide how what we see can be used in our creative endeavors.
In my case, I’d worked in decorative concrete for a long time before nature crawled under my skin. It began when
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By Larry O’Hearn
In July last year, the city of Chicago unveiled its newest civic landmark: Millennium Park, a world-class artistic and architectural extravaganza in the heart of downtown. At a cost of more than $475 million and in a process that took more than six years to complete, the park transformed a lakefront space once marked by unsightly railroad tracks and ugly parking lots into a civic showcase.
The creation of the 24.5-acre park brought together an unprecedented collection of
For years, Montréal’s arts district has been the venue for music and theater performances, art exhibitions, festivals and all manner of cultural events. As part of a revitalization process in the area, notes David L’Heureux, the city recently unveiled the Place des Festivals and a spectacular watershape he and a distinguished design team built at its heart as a gathering place for residents and visitors of all ages and a civic focus for fun, relaxation and visual joy.
Throughout North America in recent years, cities have turned to a variety of watershapes to enliven and, occasionally, revitalize their public spaces.
These watershapes are more than the wonderful fountains long found in public parks and plazas. Indeed, the recent success of projects including Chicago’s Millennium Park and its ambitious combination of significant waterfeatures with gardens, architecture and art has demonstrated the tremendous potential that lies in crafting interesting, multi-functional places for people to gather.
Canada offers a spectacular recent example of this trend in the form of
By John Copley & Lynn Wolff
Sometimes, it’s the unexpected that gives a place its true spirit.
That’s been very much the case for The First Church of Christ, Scientist, a 1975 addition to Boston’s historic Back Bay district. The site features a campus plan devised by legendary architects I.M. Pei and Peter Walker, with grounds organized around a
When second-generation metalworker and sculptor Kris Kesler wanted to take his custom waterfeatures to a higher, more artistic level, he took off his welding mask and picked up a computer mouse. It’s been liberating, he says, enabling him to design everything from simple scuppers to hurricane-proof fountains and take care of the details that make them work on screen before he puts his hands in gloves and goes at it with hammer and tongs.
Growing up in a family of industrial and commercial fabricators, I was steeped from an early age in traditional metalworking techniques – hammering, planishing, leather-sandbag shaping and my favorite, torch welding. Learning at my father’s knee in his commercial steelwork factory led me to admire the artistry of craftspeople as they transformed raw hunks of metal into functional and often beautiful works of art.
The power of that experience has always stuck with me. Later in life, when I decided to launch my own water- and fire-feature company, I was excited to get back behind the welding mask and
It was no easy task: We were called on to take the majestic landscape defined by the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers; use it as a template for an urban oasis filled with sculptures, plants and water; and develop a park that would mesh seamlessly with its surrounding urban spaces.
Furthermore, they wanted this park to appeal to every conceivable user – people of all ages, needs and backgrounds – while also serving as a catalyst for growth and a profound revival of the city’s core. And not only was the space to carry that symbolic load, but it also had to function efficiently with long-term reliability.
We at Hydro Dramatics (St. Louis, Mo.) know from experience that projects of this scope and scale require much planning and coordination to go along with large measures of innovation. We also know that these types of challenges make success that much sweeter.
So we jumped into the task with all our energy, supporting the design team charged with developing Citygarden, a 2.9-acre parcel to be filled with