Read this article, ‘In a New Pier District, an Arc Bends Towards Justice,’ in The Dirt blog – the American Society of Landscape Architect’s (ASLA) weekly news on the built and natural environments featuring stories on landscape architecture.
Here are some excerpts from the story by Jared Green:
“Along 2nd Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida, an old pier launch built on landfill didn’t offer much beyond lots of parking and a long hot walk 3,000 feet out to a restaurant jutting into the Atlantic Ocean. After a $92 million redesign, a new 26-acre walkable pier district now unites city and pier through a walkable green landscape that features Bending Arc, a new sculpture with a social justice message by net artist Janet Echelman, gardens, a playground, and hundreds of newly-planted native Floridian trees.
The pier district project was planned and designed by multiple interdisciplinary teams. Barbara Wilks, FASLA, and her team at W-Architecture led the design of the 23-acre approach that brings visitors from downtown through the park space that features Echelman’s piece, her largest permanent installation to date. Architects at Rogers Partners and ASD/SKY Architect and landscape architects at Ken Smith Workshop designed a 3-acre plaza and pier found at the outer edge further into the ocean.”
On the experience of the district and the social justice message:
“As visitors meander through the new landscape, there’s a gateway lined with palm trees, a marketplace with stalls for local artisans, the striking artwork, gardens with a playground and constructed pond, and a beach. The pier district was “designed as a series of events that draw you in. We choreographed how the experience will unfold.”
Conceptual landscape design was already moving forward when city leaders alerted Wilks that Echelman has been commissioned to bring one of her giant pieces to the park. On the phone over a weekend, they reached agreement on the location for the piece, which is called Bending Arc, in reference to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Echelman named the piece Bending Arc and incorporated multiple arcing forms because the site played an important role in the movement for civil rights. The place was “where local citizens began peacefully challenging racial barriers, leading to the 1957 U.S. Supreme Court case ruling, which upheld the rights of all citizens to enjoy use of the municipal beach and swimming pool without discrimination.” St. Petersburg was also later known for the sanitation workers’ strike of 1968, one of the largest in the country in the wake of the assassination of King.”
On the design qualities and environmental benefits of the new district:
“On the ground, Wilks worked with Echelman to fine tune the position of the artwork so it avoided existing trees. Wilks then created circular landscape forms below Bending Arc‘s three apertures where visitors can look up.
Circles are prevalent in the new pier district’s design because the local limestone landscape naturally forms round pools of water, which also results in trees forming a circle around the pools’ edges.
Wilks purposefully designed the perimeter of the space with native oaks and pine trees to focus attention on Bending Arc. Diagonal pathways from the gardens direct visitors to the artwork. At some surrounding edges, bioswales with native plants — green infrastructure systems for managing stormwater — can be crossed by low wooden bridges.
Once visitors move past Echelman’s sculpture, they encounter gardens that contain a play space overlooking a new pond. Because W-Architecture planted native trees and plants, the site has become a mecca for wildlife, something its earlier incarnation as a parking lot could never have achieved.
Wilks added that the park itself echoes the social justice message of Echelman’s artwork. “The new pier district is very much for everyone. It was designed to be free and open.”
Photo by Brian Adams
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