During the year 2015 I initiated and led a project that studied the role of the artist as a member in a street design team.
The works I designed did not on average exceed the costs of the solutions that they were designed to replace. [...] there is huge unused potential in using artists in street design teams to allow for cost effective, yet high quality art to be integrated in out cityscapes.
The goal was to study, how artistic work could be integrated in urban design instead of placing a separate work in public space - also saving money. To put it very shortly, the idea was to update the tradition of having artists in the teams that create our public spaces. (I write more about the vanishing and renewal of this collaborative approach here.)
By placing an artist in the street design team, we could take some of the objects ordinarily found in any public space - say, a bench or a bike rack - and replace them with artistic alternatives. This would allow the city to avoid the costs of separate artworks, as art could be integrated in the overall design, with its processes and costs.
I worked as the artist in the team, which otherwise consisted of a street designer and a landscape designer, working for Ramboll. The work was commissioned by the City of Tampere, and supported by the Foundation For Public Art.
The site, before
The site was a short pedestrian street in the center of the city. The brief was to keep the street pedestrian while redesigning the paving and the street furniture, to give the area more natural light and an updated visual image. The paving also had come to the end of its service life and was in need of a full repair and restoration. As the trees would not survive the renewal of the ground layers many meters deep, new trees would be planted to replace them.
As part of the design team, I drafted eight artworks that would each in some way replace ordinary forms and their building costs. Of these, three were selected to be presented to the public along with the prefatory street plan, to gather comments from the crowd. Below are the links to these three proposals.
If you're fluent in Finnish, you can read the original announcement and descriptions, as well as the comments made by public, here.
The proposal gathering the most positive feedback was Mirror Clear. As it was also the favorite of the city as the commissioner, it got chosen to be the work developed further for building along the renewal of the street.
The site, as designed
The final design included fewer trees, a roofed bike parking, and an integrated artwork. The finished street plan below.
This is the exact way that the designs were presented to the political committee deciding on the project - you'll find less technical drawings in the description of the original design. The committee decided to build the street as presented here, with the artwork included in the budget.
chosen designs: Peilikirkas - mirror clear
The artwork chosen to be built was caller Mirror Clear - Peilikirkas in Finnish. After the study, the designs were further developed by me and a team of specialists in metal works and urban structures, and built into a finished artwork. The latest photos can be found here.
As part of the process, some ideas and drafts were abandoned along the way. This was generally due to technical issues, such as here in the case of the Rose Asphalt -work. I'll give a short introduction to the work here:
The idea here was to replace the paving in one crossroads with asphalt, and a painting. The painting would be made of the same extremely durable, paint-like material used to paint pedestrian crossings. An illustration below.
Using asphalt instead of granite, it would have been possible to save money. The money saved could then have been invested in the artwork, thus saving the city a need for a separated art budget - the central idea of the study.
However, as the crossroads in question was part of an official route for fire tracks and other heavy traffic, it was estimated that the paint, although a lot stronger than regular paint, would not endure the strain in the long run. This is why, the idea was left behind.
Overall, the works I designed, did not on average exceed the costs of the solutions that they were designed to replace. This leads me to think, that there is huge unused potential in using artists in street design teams to allow for cost effective, yet high quality art to be integrated in out cityscapes.
The method needs more study, and both fields need guidance in organizing the collaboration. I do believe that the role of art as part of urban planning and design is a field that deserves to be thoroughly studied, and it's processes updated to fit the needs of all parties that it concerns. My goal is to test the model in a wider study in the upcoming years. By its nature, the developments of this field is based on interdisciplinary collaboration, and I warmly welcome all comments and proposals that the reader might have concerning the matter.
You can read more about my work around this subject here in my blog. Great sources for interested artists or city developers on public art in general are to be found (in Finnish concerning Finland) at the websites of Percent For Art Finland, an the Foundation for Public Art. Highly recommended!