Monday, October 26, 2009
Art and public spaces
Olafur Eliasson does a wonderful job of showing how making public spaces an art piece, especially interactive, can help people become more aware of their surroundings and relate to them more. He also explains why this happens with things, such as waterfalls.
Of course, Eliasson uses artistic elements that reflect nature into his public spaces, which makes them more human than many man-made spaces. I believe that this reflection of nature that creates a common ground for all humans, whereas the obviously artificial space limits the way people relate to it.
Teddy Roosevelt saw the same thing in nature's effect on humans when he created the US Natural Parks system. He saw the National Parks where people of all classes could visit and be the same.
So nature reflected in art creates common ground. What does other styles of public architecture do? During the Federalist Period in the United States, elements of Ancient Greek architecture was used to bring a sense of order, beauty and achievement from that ancient democracy to the young country. Romanesque architecture was meant to life the spirit and strengthen faith. Crisp, clean, artificial architecture is meant to drive the imagination into future endeavors.
Likewise, shoddy buildings, and other signs of urban decay, negatively affect the psyches of those who live around it. The only exception to the "building decay=depression" rule I've found is when the decay isn't a crumbling into dust, but a reclaimation into nature. In which case, it often strikes me as nature embracing the structure--a marriage of art and life.