Livening up Modernist architecture with public art

While recently taking an architecture tour in Chicago, I was intrigued by two scenes in the Loop: the Alexander Calder piece “Flamingo” in front of Mies van der Rohe’s Kluczynski Federal Building and the and Picasso’s sculpture in front of theĀ Richard J. Daley Center. Here are the two sites:



Both sites feature a similar set-up: modernist buildings on superblocks surrounded by large concrete plazas. On one hand, these could be dead zones as Americans tend not to like such spaces, particularly in cold weather or in the shade. But, introducing a little bit of color and disorder through the art compared to the repetition of the modernist buildings leads to a pleasing contrast. Both sculptures are tactile, particularly the Picasso one where kids were climbing on its lower levels. Americans tend not to not think modernist structures are worth of preservation or landmark status but it is hard to imagine these pieces of famous art working so well in front of different buildings.

Chicago does some interesting stuff with public art but I still wish more cities would engage in more projects like this in public spaces. What is there to lose?

The McMansion for dogs in the sculpture park

A sculpture park in St. Louis has a new exhibit for dogs that includes a McMansion:

This summer, Laumeier Sculpture Park hosts “Dog Days of Summer,” an exhibit that allows visitors to ponder the dog/human relationship while giving their pets a chance to romp free across the park grounds…

The exhibit’s centerpiece, “Not Without My Dog,” is an interactive dog trail installed outdoors. Designed by Finnish artist Tea Makipaa, the art piece has six stations dogs can examine as they wind their way along the park’s nature trail.

“It’s a place where dogs can be themselves and we can better understand how they perceive the world,” Venso said.

One of the interactive stations, called “Dogs of USA,” has several contemporary versions of doghouses. Venso said one burned-out house represents Detroit. Another is built in cookie-cutter “McMansion” style. A third is an eight-story brick tenement doghouse.

What an interesting collection of “contemporary” doghouses: a burned-out house, a McMansion, and a tenement. Why these three and what is the message behind them? Perhaps they simply represent interesting settings that allow the sculptor to show some creativity. (Who will be the first to take a picture of a dog going to the bathroom on the McMansion in the park and post it gleefully online?)

I’m going to have to check the website of the sculpture park to see if they include any pictures of these three doghouses after the exhibit opens June 25.