PUBLIC ART AT MAIN STREET GARDEN PARK

WINTER LIGHTS CHANGE TO SPRING


SpectraScape, the Public Art installation comprised of video bands of light that scroll across the green glass shelters at Main Street Garden Park will shift from the winter colors – green and white – to spring on March 20, as the Vernal Equinox transpires. On Saturday evening viewers will see pink tones of light that celebrate the spring landscape of the garden park proclaiming the end of winter.

SpectraScape, inspired by the colors of the seasonal foliage in Main Street Garden Park, interacts with park visitors when they enter the green glass shelters.  The horizontal scroll of color freezes as interior lights illuminate the shelter space when visitors step in.

The presentation of Spring in SpectraScape is best viewed just after dusk, which is clearly identified by the white color bands that identify the 30 minutes of sunset before resuming with the seasonal rhythmic flash of color that races across the top of the shelter.  This work inhabits the City’s first urban park landscape in central Dallas, Main Street Garden Park located between Commerce and Main and St. Paul and Harwood streets.

Leni Schwendinger

With over twenty years of work as both lighting designer and public artist, Leni has developed her lighting philosophy and in doing so, has refined the possibilities for light in the urban environment.  She has been the recipient of numerous professional awards, including several “Lumen” awards from the Illuminating Engineering Society, the Society for Environmental Graphic Design and the NYFA Fellowship for emerging and media art.

The City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA) works to enhance the vitality of the City and the quality of life for all Dallas citizens by creating an environment wherein arts and cultural organizations can thrive so that people of all ages can enjoy opportunities for creative expressions and the celebration of our community’s multicultural heritage. Our mission is to establish a cultural system that ensures that ALL Dallas citizens and visitors have an opportunity to experience the finest in arts and culture. The OCA is advised by an 18-member Cultural Affairs Commission appointed by the Dallas City Council. The OCA manages the city’s Cultural Contracts, Neighborhood Touring and Public Art Programs; oversees six cultural centers including the Bath House Cultural Center, Latino Cultural Center, Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, Oak Cliff Cultural Center (opening in 2010), and South Dallas Cultural Center; and operates the city’s classical music radio station, WRR101.1FM. More information on the programs and services provided by the OCA can be found at www.dallasculture.org.

Links to media about SpectraScape and the design process at Dallas Main Street Garden Park

We arrived on a cold, turbulently windy day.  Snug and dry in the Admiral Hotel a converted waterfront warehouse, we fell asleep to the hum of wind gusts whipping down The Sound (“Øresund”) –a strait between the Kattegat and the Baltic Sea.  The Admiral is a few minutes walk along the waterfront to new the Royal Playhouse – its interior filled with an atmosphere of starlight, and a view across the river to the dramatically illuminated Copenhagen Opera House.

By evening’s light a walk into the center city; I wondered at the darkness – the catenary lights suspended over every street – and rare punctuations of facade and sign lighting.

Center for LYS (Center for Light) invited me to speak that their annual Lighting Day.  This year it was held at the ultimately modern Black Diamond – a conference and cultural center annexed to the “old Copenhagen Main Library” built in 1906.

In the center of the vast, open lobby there are two conveyors that stretch between the old and the new buildings.

Watch my Conveyor movie on the Light Projects YouTUBE channel (click here).

The Danish Lighting Center was founded in 1948 with a mission to “advance knowledge and to disseminate information for the improvement of the lighted environment to the benefit of society”. They hold seminars and conferences, and produce a magazine, LYS. Director, Kenneth Munck and  Dorte Gram, an architect who coordinated my invitation to the event and writes for the LYS Magazine, were both wonderful hosts.

I joined a dynamic international group of lighting designers and engineers, including Roger Narboni from France.  My topic was “Reclaiming the Dark Side of Town, an Underpass becomes a Gateway”; a comprehensive discourse on the making of Triple Bridge Gateway at NYC’s Port Authority Bus Terminal.  This project took eight years to complete, with Light Projects role encompassing illumination, color palette and collaboration on the materials for four bus ramps in midtown Manhattan.

Thankfully during the stay it warmed up and I wandered through the city — night and day — observing a massive population of bicyclists and pedestrians co-existing with vehicular traffic, visiting philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s grave and exploring light and the streetscape.

Mark and I visited the Rundetaarn “Round Tower” – a 17th-century tower located in the central district.  It was built as an astronomical observatory and now houses a multi-use cultural space – which showcased an interesting art show of urban signs.

A steep winding corridor of smooth polished cobble stones, with sunken windows and daylight effects upon stucco, leads to a ladder to the exterior observatory level and an expansive panorama of rooftops and industrial structures beyond Copenhagen proper.  The 360-degree city view was exhilarating.

Copenhagen is a city of Scandinavian modern and Scandinavian medieval.

From the observatory to the airport, I am enthralled by this northern sensibility.

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Interested in other international visits and my public space and lighting observations?

Here are posts from 2009:

China

Mexico

Born to go to Mexico City, “La Capital”

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Leni aspired to Mexicana status, here pictured in red dress with Aztec-inspired embroidery

Growing up in Los Angeles Spanish language study started in 5th grade.  We created our own Spanish books – mine was over-sized with a hard cover surfaced in canvas and splatter paint.  the binding was tied with leather thong.  In my imagination, Mexico was associated with music, rich colors, copper metal, a land of deserts, carvings and people who were so fascinating that they spoke a different language than me.  I had a wish to be Mexicana.  Above all I wanted to visit Mexico City.

So, when Jeffrey Miller, President of IALD texted a request from China about my interest in speaking on City Beautification in Mexico City I was thrilled!

This city of great layered history — and pre-history –was opened to me through the inimitable process of Dérive, with my constant companion and explorer, Mark Kramer.

Ciudad de México is inhabited by 8,836,045 inhabitants (2008 figure, Wikipedia) and Greater Mexico City has a population exceeding 19 million people, making it the second largest metropolitan area in the Americas and the third largest agglomeration in the world (Wikipedia).

IALD Conference on Sustainable Design at CIHAC

Convention Center

Expo CIHAC (Centro Impulsor de la Construccion y la Habitacion) was held on October 13-17th, 2009 at the Banamex Convention Center, Mexico City.  The Expo is the most important construction exhibition in Mexico. It gathers together project developers, contractors, consultants, engineers and building material suppliers.  This year CIHAC partnered with IALD (International Association of Lighting Designers) to hold a Conference on Sustainable Design.  Mexico’s IALD chapter sponsored the event.  It was a great opportunity to meet with my south-of-the-border colleagues.

The Banamex Convention Center is adjacent to the Americas Horse Racetrack.  Upon arrival we were mesmerized by the trotting horses out for practice.  I joined North American lighting design colleagues Charles Stone and  Mark Loeffler at the podium.

Charles discussion of White Light in Public Lighting was the perfect counterpoint to mine, with its focus on colored light.  Mark’s LEED and Lighting Design walked the audience through the ever more complex arena of “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” and how lighting applies. Mark also spoke on Daylighting Design.

CIHAC Speakers

My topic City Beautification, The Use of Color and Light posits that the use of colored light in the urban environment has exploded.  With the continued development of LED sources the lighting designers’ paintbox has been redefined and colored light is not only technically more possible than in the past, but the technologies are more energy-saving  and sustainable in terms of maintenance.  In this talk I address “by what measure can designers agencies and owners rate the applicability of colored light in the city environment?”  I review the artistic use of color and how to judge good design using color theory, case studies and a checklist. Here, a link to the hand out.

Walking the Streets

Walking is knowing a city…

View here a video of an animated Walk signal, and a great sense of Mexican traffic engineering humor, the Don’t Walk signal – with a person impatiently tapping his foot and consulting a wristwatch as the seconds tick by… to walk.

Envision the experience of the street through the moments that captured me and and in turn are captured by my camera.

Medians and Malls

streetscape

Paving Patterns, Shadows, Light and Textures

Paving

Street Corners

corner

Lighting Fixtures and Side Streets After-dark

mex_lighting

The Zócalo, la Plaza Suprema

Urban planners and designers are ever questing for the perfect recipe for town squares and plazas. Mexico City’s Zócalo — Plaza de la Constitución — is a prime reference – often mentioned in discussion of urban landscape design.

Zocalo_area

Streets branching off the Zocalo

At long last, I was able to visit — see, sense, feel — the genuine article — the authentic plaza, the Zócalo.  I was fascinated by the shared space of pedestrians, cars and bicycles and delivery carts.  Even on a weekday, the sidewalks and streets were packed.  “Shared streets” or “shared space” is a traffic engineering concept to remove separations between vehicles and pedestrians, and devices such as curbs, painted lines, signs and signals. The logic is that humans can be self regulated when forced to…an interesting civic pact.  It felt, here on the main square streets, that the concept of shared streets had not been enforced or planned but simply an authentic need had been fulfilled — that of a huge metropolis and its circulation evolving.

The Zócalo Edge; Metropolitan Cathedral

(Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María)

Catedral Metropolitana

Because of its rich natural, archeological and architectural sites Mexico ranks within the top countries with the most UNESCO World Heritage sites.  As we walked toward the Zócalo through the busy foot traffic, jewelry and watch stores, cafes and restaurants and sidewalk markets our eyes gravitated naturally to the Metropolitan Cathedral which defines the north edge of the plaza.  Its ornate carvings of stone and wood bursts out of the facade beckoning visitors.

The Cathedral is the largest and oldest cathedral in the Americas. It is sited upon a sacred Aztec precinct near the Templo Mayor. The cathedral was built around a church that was constructed after the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán — the Aztec’s capital city (1573 to 1813) — and finally replaced the church. The Metropolitan was inspired by Spain’s Gothic cathedrals.  Its Baroque-style facade and 64-meter high Neoclassical-style towers contain 18 bells.

The ethereal glow of the ornate interior reveals five naves, several chapels, two impressive pipe organs, religious paintings and figurines.  The decor, whispered hush and flicker of candles conspire to create a time/space wonderment.

The Zócalo Edge; Templo Mayor

templo_mayor_plaque

“Next door” to the Cathedral is the Templo Mayor (Great Temple)

The Aztec legend describes the siting of the Temple as a fulfillment of a prophecy; where an eagle was seen perched on a cactus devouring a snake.

Construction began around 1325 AD and the Temple was continually enlarged over the next two centuries. A the time of the Spanish Conquest, in 1521, the temple was the center of this Tenochtitlan, with a population of 300,000.

The temple was nearly destroyed by the Spaniards after their conquest of Tenochtitlan.

The Templo Mayor excavation began 30 years ago after electrical tradesmen discovered the ruins.

Templo Mayor Mexico City

Two life-size clay figures from this trove represent the two faces of Aztec religion. A winged warrior, his head poking out from an eagle’s beak, with talons erupting from his knees, symbolizes life or the sun at dawn. Discovered only a decade ago, a grisly, six-foot-tall, clay figure – with his liver dangling beneath exposed ribs – represents death. Both were revered. The equal value of life and death explains “why the images of death are so strong,” says Felipe Solís, curator and the foremost authority on the Aztecs. “At Mexico City’s core beats an Aztec heart”  — Carol Strickland, Christian Science Monitor

Culture

Museo Nacional de Antropología

Museo de Anthropologica

On our way to the Museo de Anthropologica we strolled through Chapultepec Park.  A large scale photo exhibition mounted on an iron fence was composed of provocative images in billboard style.   The Museum, in mid-century modern/Mexican style, is stunning – the sleek lines interrupted by pattern and relief.  The first gallery was a contemporary take by several artists, on Mexico City and its populous.  Salvage materials, video, industrial homage and individual stories tell the life of the lesser known Mexicano.

The monumental collection is humbling.  Here, another chance to experience the ancient, this time through a curated collection.

culture

Left: billboard photo exhibit, Center: View of Chapultepec, Right: the Kahlo-Rivera House-Study

Lighting designer Gustavo Aviles, and his wife Magi, took us to dinner at the Colonia San Ángel Inn. After an evening of laughter and conversation they surprised us by pointing out the Kahlo/Rivera House-Study right across the street. The intense and creative couple — Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera — painted and housed their skull collection, as well as pre-Columbian art and Mexican crafts here.

The complex, two buildings connected by a bridge, is one the most important cultural landmarks of Mexico City. It was designed by Juan O’Gorman — an architect and painter.  It is a a merging of modern Mexican architecture and the International style.

The work caused a heated controversy in the 1930s by combining organic Mexican architecture and architectural murals with functionalism. So was the breaking of all the aesthetic paradigms of architecture in Mexico until then, to incorporate such blunt theories and thoughts as most avant-garde architects (as Le Corbusier) were developing on the European continent. Thoughts such as the rational use of materials, analysis of the functioning of ideal spaces and the adequacy of them to accommodate activities that took place within them – ideas that were radical at first but eventually were assimilated into the worldwide architectural community. These houses were made possible with minimum cost and effort.

Diego Rivera Studio Museum was established by presidential decree in 1981, opening its doors in 1986. In 1994, the INBA made the restoration and rehabilitation of houses a cultural heritage site of the nation, according to the decree published in the Diario Oficial on March 25, 1998. — Wikiarquitectura.com

I heartily recommend the movie Frida Kahlo directed by Julie Taymor for the flavor, color and sounds of a time in Mexico. And here a link of the real Frida and Diego.

La Capital is an exemplar of metropolitan life, and I like to think that my explorations have just begun.

A discussion in two parts, with Kay Kallos, Dallas Public Art Program Manager, covers the inception and objectives of the integrated artwork at the newly opened Main Street Garden in Dallas.

Audio links

Interview Part 1

Artist Leni Schwendinger discusses her new work, SpectraScape, at the new Main Street Garden Park located at 1902 Main Street in downtown Dallas. SpectraScape is a site-specific artwork comprised of bands of light that scroll across the green glass study shelters at Main Street Garden Park.

Intreview Part 2

SpectraScape refers to the garden through the use of four seasonal color palettes derived from the seasonal park plantings—rust and gold for fall, pink, yellow and green for summer, green, blue, and white for winter and green and yellow for spring. Each season is proclaimed through rhythmic sequences of colors and tones that race across the tops of the study shelters.


Downtown central Dallas is being recast.

spectrascape01

Traditionally, the city center has been associated with such iconic non-residential structures as Neiman-Marcus’ flagship store, the once- flamboyant Statler-Hilton building and the “Old City Hall” notorious for Jack Ruby’s slaying of Lee Harvey Oswald. DOWNTOWN DALLAS, a business improvement district, has been formed, and buildings heretofore industrial and commercial, such as the moderne-style Mercantile, formerly a bank building with radio transmitter and an illuminated clock tower, have been renovated for housing.

SpectraScape rendering and color palette

SpectraScape rendering and color palette

I worked closely with the park designer, Thomas Balsley, to develop the park’s lighting scheme so a subsequent public artwork commission was a natural progression which built on my understanding of the uses and types of park visitors.  University of North Texas’ law school is slated to move into the Old City Hall and I envisioned students with laptops and law books as primary park visitors.

Inverted “L” shaped green, glass shade-structures were designed by the architect to stand along the edge of Main Street. The structures are set off by a long triangle of seasonally planted, colorful striated gardens.  I thought of the structures “study carrels”, envisioning a light that might switch on when students or other visitor entered for reading during warm Texas evenings.

Using the color and stripes of the gardens as a launch point, I envisioned sleek lines of light integrated into the shelters’ edges.  Narrow bands of animated stripes, viewed in series will attract passersby.

Light Projects’ Design Manager, Ute Besenecker, has been instrumental throughout the design and implementation process and we have worked closely with interactive designer Ed Purver for programming.

Thus SpectraScape was conceptualized.

Here, a full sized mock up is presented on a warm evening, July 31, 2009. (See low-resolution movie)

Mock-up July 31, 2009

Winter (left) / Summer (center-left) / Autumn (center-right) / Downtown Dallas neighbors viewing

A bonus; the dynamic, luminous lines are visible day and night, adding a moth to flame effect from afternoon into the night.

Guangzhou (广州市区)

The Guangzhou International Lighting Exhibition and its concurrent Guangzhou International Lighting Technology Symposium was held on 9 – 12 June 2009. Organized by the lighting-focused event planners Messe Frankfurt with Chinese partner YangGuang Lighting Service (YGLS). This trade fair is one of the Messe’s seven lighting, electrical and building technology fairs held around the world, including Frankfurt, Middle East and Buenos Aires.

Pazhou Complex

The show and symposium were staged in the undulating, metallic buildings of the China Import and Export Fair Pazhou Complex (中国进出口商品交易会琶洲展馆), built in 2002. The fairground was designed by the Japanese architectural firm of AXS SAWTO and developed by the Architectural Design and Research Institute of South China University of Technology.

The Complex is especially known for the Canton Fair (Chinese Import & Export Fair) which is held twice a year in Spring and Autumn since it was inaugurated in the Spring of 1957. Guangzhou, the center of the Pearl River Delta manufacturing powerhouse and close to provincial exporting bases. After 52 years’ development… the Canton Fair has become a comprehensive international trade event in China with the longest history, the largest scale, the most complete exhibit variety, the broadest distribution of buyers, the biggest buyer attendance, and the greatest business turnover, and the soundest credibility, enjoying the reputation of “China’s No.1 Fair”.

— Wang Junwen; Secretary General of China Import and Export Fair & Director General of China Foreign Trade Centre

My Talk: Color and Light: Humanizing the Urban Nighttime Environment

I was invited to speak in the Sustainable Development in the Lighting Industry; LED track. Dr. Vincent Chen, Senior Application Engineer from OSRAM China Lighting moderated.

Slide Show

The subject: The use of colored light in the urban environment has exploded. Now with LED (Light Emitting Diodes) the lighting designers’ paint-box has been redefined. Colored light is not only more possible, but is energy-conscious and sustainable in terms of maintenance. However, by what measure can designers, agencies and owners rate the applicability of colored light in the open, public environment. In this talk I reviewed the artistic use of color, and proposed a system of judging good designs with using color theory, case studies and a check-list. 

Please view and print my handout here (click on this link).

China_lecture_collage02

The lecture was well attended. The audience was comprised of lighting designers and engineers, architects, manufacturers, artists and students. The Q&A was lively.  My favorite question — from a student — passionately delivered — concerned China’s current preoccupation with “too much color” and “too much animation”.

Afterward, I joined “From Inspiration to Implementation” a panel of  owners (the government), engineers, and architects…and two lighting designers, including myself. Subjects ranged from questions of creativity through issues of implementation–addressed by each and every participant from varied vantage points. Here I learned that in China a project life span of two to five years is a normal expectation for buildings, or at least for the lighting of buildings in China and so, the expectation of longevity and quality are not the same as in the US – which hovers in the 25-year duration.

people01

As an aspiring linguist, it is fascinating to think in a new language — structure and syntax reveals the inner spirit of culture…however my grasp of Mandarin has yet to be realized.  Thanks to interpreter Jasmine Shi, I was able to understand normal course of conversations, and as well as probing mysterious-seeming motivations and activities. I was fortunate to meet lighting design colleague from Taiwan, Ta-Wei Lin. He has a great sense of humor (a prerequisite for good lighting designers) and it was a pleasure to speak in rapid English over biscuits and team upstairs in the conference mezzanine.

Lighting fixture rarities

Lighting fixture rarities

Time was short between lecture and panel. Jasmine and I rushed through the trade show floor. The products I saw were highly decorative – sparkle ruled the day at this trade show. A beginner in the Chinese market it was hard to understand who the important players are.

Pearl River Cruise

An evening cruise on the Pearl River (珠江) – the third longest in China revealed the student’s issue of “too much” color and animation. Blocky buildings were dressed in gaudy garments of light – dancing, blinking and morphing. A laser effect swept the river. The shore was edged in bright blue light.

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Part 2Hangzhou to Suzhou: From the Elegant (Grand Canal) to the Sublime (Lion Forest Garden)

Part 3 – Shanghai: Simultaneously Chrysalis and Butterfly

Part 4Shanghai Post-Script: Ancient Town Park

Hangzhou (杭州市区)

Today Hangzhou is an important cultural center in China.  It was the capital of the Song Dynasty, starting 1127,  for close to one-hundred years – until the Mongols invaded.  At that time it was one of the most populated cities of the world – estimated at one million.  Throughout its legendary history, Hangzhou has been described an honored as the  “City of Civilization”, “Land Abundant in Fish and Rice”, “Home of Silk”, and the “Capital of Tea”.   Several friends had informed me in advance that the adventurer/explorer Marco Polo described Hangzhou as “the finest and noblest city in the world”.

On Saturday, June 13, we arrived to scenic West Lake (西湖) one of Hangzhou’s most visited sites, where we assembled for a traditional lunch on the banks of the Lake.

Camille Liang, an YGLS Account Executive accompanied us on the second leg of the trip

Camille Liang, an YGLS Account Executive accompanied us

Although it was daytime when we arrived – I could see the romanticism of the district emphasized by ornate streetlights and through later conversation and reading I learned that West Lake is famous for light shows and fireworks. After lunch we visited the West Lake  Zoo to meet the panda, birds, reptiles and fauna indigenous to China and Asia.

In the evening we had dinner with  Mr. Shen Wei of  Zhejiang Urban Construction Garden Designing Institute – selecting ingredients in sidewalk bins which were served in novel and delicious ways.

Images courtesy Wei Shen and Mondo Magazine

Grand Canal images courtesy Shen Wei and Mondo Magazine

Mr. Shen took us to the Grand Canal (大运河),  A spectacular man-made waterway flowing over 1,000 miles, the most ancient sections were started in the 5th century BC, and partially navigated sections were combined in 581–618 AD. There we experienced the recently opened lighting installation by Roger Narboni (with management by Zongtai Lighting group) – a collage of green-illuminated trees, large scale blue rectangles hovering over the water and softly lined and lighted bridges. On the opposite bank Shen’s designed -and -installed architectural lighting installation marked the landmark wooden buildings which have just been renovated – echoing with pre-tenant emptiness. Luminous red plexi-and-metal lanterns are effective here – creating a mysterious and quiet pattern of markers, and the building eaves are lined with white LED. In both lighting installations I question the use of cool stark white — and would rather have seen a soft candlelight color — more difficult to attain with LED.

Suzhou Train Station

Suzhou Train Station

Suzhou (苏州)

A smaller town than Hangzhou or mega-city Guangzhou, Suzhou is known as a garden city.  Four-thousand years old, Suzhou is one of China’s  “24 Cultural and Historic Cities “.  Additionally, Suzhou is known for its historic creative personae –   “remarkable politicians, philosophers, strategists, scientists and artists”.  Today prominent cultural institutions and talents reside in Suzhou.

An infinate variety of handmade paving patterns

An infinite variety of handmade paving patterns at the Lion Forest Garden

Well preserved are Suzhou’s double chessboard layout of  “water and land in parallel, canal and street in neighbor”, its network of rivers and canals composing three vertical, three horizontal and one ring, and its unique landscape of “small bridge, flowing water, white wall, black tile, cultural relics and classic gardens”. In today’s Suzhou there are 487 cultural relics under municipal-and-upper level protection, of which 15 are under state-level protection and 101 are under provincial protection. Over 60 classical gardens are well preserved and nine of them are listed in the Catalog of World Cultural Heritage,  Humble Administrator’s Garden, Lingering Garden , Master-of-Nets Garden, Mountain Villa of Embracing Beauty, Surging Wave Pavilion, Lion Forest Garden, Garden of Cultivation, (among others). –Suzhou Culture and History Website

LionsForest

In 1991 I studied the “kare sansui” (dry landscapes), while living in Japan under the auspices of a Japan-US Friendship Society grant.  I understood that the rock garden concept and craft was “borrowed” from the Chinese. Viewing the Chinese-designed rock-gardens has been a life-long goal.  We visited the Lion Forest Garden (獅子林). The entry sign informed of  caves and tunnels — which I could not picture.  Japanese garden design did not prepare me for the experience to come.

Suddenly we were in a cool, dim cave.  I fell in love with the framing of each view from under and over the rocks. An invitation to climb was implicit. We did. Walking along the rim of the naturally hewn rough rocks and then down the man-made steps and edges was exciting and enthralling… a highly aesthetic adventure playground.