Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Urban oasis

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.”

Mission accomplished.

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.



Ribbon said...

I absolutely love your blog..
as you know I've been having internet troubles and therefore I haven't been able to get over for a while.
I'm got some reading to catch up on....

I'll be back soon.
Got to dash now as I've got
visitors coming for lunch and here I am blogging.
best wishes
and thank you for all that you share.

Ribbon :-)

ps... word verification for today
uncat.... guess that means you're a dog person :-)

C.J. Koster said...

I love the Pinocchio statue.

drollgirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kathleen said...

Sold! I am definitely coming for a visit.

I cannot get over the tours you've given us on your blog.

Leatherdykeuk said...

I especially love the Igor Mitoraj

The Cottage Cheese said...

Citygarden is gorgeous! I love the kinetic sculptures. I have to say the horse peeking through is my favorite, in part because of the way it is placed amongst the trees. One day I will visit your lovely city and see this garden for myself. (My fiance loves St. Louis, and I know that I will too!)

Some Guy said...

Very cool! I'm a big fan of well-done public spaces like this.

Ribbon said...

My favourite is the Keith Harring...

I wonder where they bought this from as isn't Keith Harring dead?

Awesome park...

best wishes and I'm now with firefox so all is looking better :-)


Lori ann said...

Hey Ribbon,

That's what fixed most my problems too, firefox!

Pat, thank you for this great tour, I would love to visit, maybe someday. The Keith Harring would have to be my favorite too. Parks are a necessity!

Anonymous said...

What a great way to use unused land! It looks awesome. Even if my Reader displays things funny and for a minute one of your artists was Ricky Martin... :)

ds said...

Neat-o. What a wonderful place to have in your city (I've only ever seen the Arch). Thanks for sharing.

Emily said...

These are such neat statues and sculptures! I mean really, what a divine gift! fabulous- a little oasis in the midst of all the concrete! -e

sallymandy said...

Fantastic! Thanks for sharing these Pyzahn. I've been to St. Louis once, years ago, and thought it was a charming city. While I love my small-town life, I really miss the amenities, like this gorgeous public space, that a city can offer.

Jim said...


Citygarden is a Great addition to your city. Nice tour & pics. I also was startled to see in your post the Igor Mitoraj sculpture "Eros Bendato" again. When I was in Krakow in 2007, the very same sculpture was being displayed in the gorgeous Rynek (Market Square). I was told it had been there for a few yrs--and then was to move to Madrid in 2008... Wonder if it will be permanently displayed now in St. Louis..?
FYI--The sculptor is one of the Polska brethren, though born/ raised in Germany--hee!