Tuesday, July 7, 2009
We’ve been given a gift. When I say we, I mean the city of St. Louis. And it’s an amazing, breathtaking gift. On what was formerly two long-neglected and vacant blocks is now an exhilarating urban oasis.
Three acres have been carved out of downtown and christened Citygarden. It features lush landscaping, contemporary sculptures, reflecting pools, water features, a plaza and a café.
The brochure says: “You won’t find walls or fences, admission fees or do not touch signs, because at Citygarden you are always free. Free to explore. Free to play. Free to feel inspired.”
This incredible project was funded by the Gateway Foundation, a private philanthropic organization, for the reported price tag of $40 million. No one has ever given me a gift this nice!
The design and architecture are inspired. Creative, well planned, playful, inviting, and earth friendly. The native landscaping is laid out in three “bands” that represent the geographic features of the region: northern river bluffs, middle floodplain and southern river terrace. Brilliant.
The sculptures and artwork are far-ranging, exceptional choices that encourage touch and will appeal to all ages. Among the 23 pieces are works by Jim Dine, Keith Haring, Niki de Saint Phalle, Ju Ming, George Rickey, Martin Puryear and Jack Youngerman.
Come, follow me. Let’s take a quick walking tour.
The backdrop is very much a part of the experience. This oasis of green is surrounded by high-rise office buildings, many with their own outstanding design heritage. Facing to the east, the garden walk is punctuated by The Old Courthouse framed in the Gateway Arch.
This bronze piece by Igor Mitoraj has the feel of an ancient relic, except that is it large enough to walk into. To the front of the sculpture is a shimmering layer of cool water that offers relief for hot tootsies.
George Rickey never uses motor power for his sculptures. These stainless steel panels act like sails to capture the wind. When the wind decreases, gravity begins to exert pull. Very spontaneous, it’s fun to watch the movement.
Jim Dine admits to being intrigued by the story of Pinocchio. Like Geppetto, this painted bronze brings “a wooden boy” to life.
“Kiera and Julian Walking” was created by Julian Opie. He begins with a video of the two people walking and uses computer software to translate into moving LED panels.
Art can be found everywhere, even peeking through the trees. Here Mimmo Paladino is inspired by science and mathematics. This bronze horse becomes ambiguous with the addition of a star-shaped form that balances on his back. (Sorry, the star is barely visible.)
My favorite piece, until I change my mind, is this bronze by Ju Ming. It represents a Tai Chi basic pose known as Single Whip.
Just knowing there is a Keith Haring sculpture on a corner in my town makes me all goose-bumpy. This painted steel piece captures a feeling of motion with the bended knees making the figure feel like it’s about to spring forward.
There’s more… much, much more, but I think these images give you enough of a glimpse for you to agree Citygarden is a magical place and an remarkable gift. Unfortunately, my photos don’t really do it justice, but if you visit the garden Web site (by clicking here), you can get a lot more information about the design and the artists.
Or better yet, why not come visit and see it for yourself.