Feature Article - October 2013
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Art in the Park

Innovative Designs Add Aesthetic Interest to Your Green Space

By Jessica Royer Ocken

Integrated elements:

One of the simplest ways to add art to your parks is to include it within pieces you need to have anyway—like a fence. "You need it, but have an artist design it," suggested GilliesSmith. "Then it has multiple layers [of meaning]." It will still create a barrier, as intended, but it may have a poem written on it or include glittery glass to reflect colors and light. "It's not that much more expensive to add an extra layer of interest and experience."

If you're making an accessible trail through the trees, look for ways to make the paving unique, Crawford said. Have forms and shapes pressed into the concrete, or choose colored concrete. And you can use the same technique with facades and columns, he added. If you're already buying masonry, why not integrate some terra cotta tile? Then you're not paying for any additional features, just the difference between brick and terra cotta or concrete vs. custom pavers.

MESA recently created a new pavilion for Moore Park in Dallas, which is designed to be a "gateway" celebrating access to the Trinity River. The angular, geometric concrete structure is intended to spark visitors' interest and draw them toward the river, as well as creating an amphitheater space where people can gather together.

And don't forget: This is a park! The natural world and your impact on it should never be far from your mind, said Thomas of the Nature Consortium. Why not include something that's beautiful to look at, but also a habitat for wildlife? Have artists design birdhouses for your space. "Use art to enhance nature," she said.

Light can be a fun artistic medium to play with, added GilliesSmith, and it has the additional benefit of adding illumination to park spaces and perhaps making them more appealing into the evening hours. Light bridges or a path through the trees with twinkling bulbs, she suggested. "Have a temporary light festival," she said. "That brings a bit of magic to a place without a huge expenditure."

The play elements of your park can also be artistically created. Hornig recalled the snake-shaped play element his firm designed for a Chicago area park. "It really sets the tone for the playground," he said with a laugh. "You've never seen anything like that!"

Even a splashpad can become an interactive work of art when its elements are sculpturally designed and color is used creatively.