Feature Article - April 2006
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Special Supplement: A Complete Guide to Site Furnishings & Park Components

Planning the right park components

By Stacy St. Clair

"This is something really unique," Rundell says. "It makes the lighting ceremony very special."

Granite walls also line the western edge of two sitting gardens. Their sculpted forms provide a sense of constant motion, while the sound of gently dripping water provides a much-needed, quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of Woodward Avenue.

"We felt it was important to have some sort of white noise there," Rundell says.

The park also boasts 750 moveable chairs and tables, which allow patrons to create their own social groupings. It gives the park the feel of a European square, a private, personal space amid very public surroundings.

Rundell selected stainless-steel and aluminum site furnishings because they would best reflect the vibrant hues of the park's magnificent gardens. They also give the square the sleek, sophisticated feel that Detroit 300 hoped to capture with a downtown renaissance.

"It allows some of the other colors to stand out," Rundell says. "We felt that it was a neutral material that would work well."

At either end of the north lawn, two stage platforms rise out of the plaza pavement. With permanent, state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems, the stages provide myriad entertainment possibilities. When the performances are over, the stages recess back into the ground and out of the way of general park use. The square also has a portable canopy system that can be used at either stage in case of inclement weather.

The lighting and sound system, however, has poles that stretch 30 feet into the air. In an effort to avoid an unwanted eyesore, the architects chose a stainless-steel trellis and planters from which vines and flowers can grow. This makes the color vegetation a focal point instead of the poles.

"We had to do something," Rundell says. "They [the poles] looked so big in such a small place."

The architects also incorporated artwork that paid homage to the city's history. On the northeast corner, a piece honors the city's contribution to music and culture. On the northwest side, there is a tribute to the area's industry and innovation.

Two murals also depict the park's past and future. One shows Judge Woodward and the troops assembling, while the other depicts the square's present day uses.

They also moved a 450-ton statue honoring the site's military history. The granite piece was refurbished, and a new base was added to provide additional seating for patrons.

"We wanted people to be able to touch the statue, to sit on it and interact with it," Rundell says.

The park's end result has been amazing. The project truly created something that changed Detroit's image in people's minds. The square hosts more than 200 events each year, ranging from an international jazz festival to a story hour for kids.

In its first year, Campus Martius attracted roughly 750,000 visitors. Its seats are filled during lunch time, and it has even become a recreation destination for families who had moved out of Detroit.

"The response to the whole park has been outstanding," Rundell says. "It's even bringing people from the suburbs back to the downtown."

The square also has begun to meet its goal of revitalizing Detroit. Since plans for the park were announced, $500 million of new investment has flown into the area. The area now has new retail shops, loft developments and revamped office space.

The most significant improvement was the opening of a major computer firm's office across from the square. During the lunch hour, the park is now filled with many of Compuware's 4,000 employees.

It's a testament to what the right creativity, the right enthusiasm and the right elements can do for a park.

"We've created something," Rundell says, "that belongs to everybody."