Public art can define a city and dazzle the eye. Striking to every viewer, public art can create iconography for a place. Here are a few works that are worthy of booking a flight.
Art has long been something that drives travel. Millions of people journey to destinations like Florence or Paris to view great works of art like Michelangelo’s David or Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. The quest to see the masters drives tourism like no other.
Even in the digital age, where art is at our fingertips, the experience of appreciating it in person just can’t be replicated. This is even more true as it pertains to large-scale outdoor art installations. Whether it’s about scale or the vividness of color in real life, large outdoor installation art is almost always about the experience the artwork creates as much as its form. Experiencing these works of art for their monumental power provides a unique moment of space, opening up time for contemplation, meditation and an experience of our senses.
Here are few of the most impactful and monumental pieces we’ve come across:
WONDERLAND, CALGARY, CANADA
Wonderland, a sculpture by the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, is set at the front of the Bow building in Calgary, Alberta, the city’s tallest building. While this giant head made of wire isn’t explicitly from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the name certainly implies something about Alice’s adventures with changes in proportion. You can enter on either side of the neck and experience it from the inside, which is a disorienting experience.
The wire mesh interior invites contemplation, and is an entirely different experience at night. Plensa has placed similar sculptures around the world, incorporating a mesh technique and the reflection of the human form, and contemplation of our physical nature or, as he most aptly puts it, “I believe the architecture of our bodies is the palace for our dreams.”
THE MINIMA/MAXIMA PAVILION, ASTANA, KAZAKHSTAN
The Minima/Maxima Pavilion by Marc Fornes and THEVERYMANY studio, is built of incredibly thin strips of aluminum material in white and pale pink—no more than six meters thick—that have been curled to maximize the curvature within a limited space. The result is a curvy, continuous surface that engages and intrigues.
This “crawling assembly,” as Fornes terms it, was built for the 2017 World’s Fair in Khazakstan. This is the tallest structure that has ever been built from such thin materials, known as “stripes”, a new concept conceived by the architectural design firm that explores the nature of structural integrity.
CONSTELLATION OF STARGAZING TEA ROOMS, JAPAN
Moriyuki Ochiai’s stargazing tea rooms are like a handful of colorful building blocks thrown out onto rolling hills. Located in the town of Bisei, known as a sanctuary for stargazing, these colorful pods are built to embrace their surroundings and optimize the viewer’s experience of it, while also honoring the town’s heritage.
The artwork has a lot of hidden meanings—the name “Bisei” means beautiful stars, and is the birthplace of the Japanese Buddhist priest Eisai, who introduced green tea to Japan. The cluster of “tea rooms” are placed to be in harmony with the rolling green hills where they rest, as well as reflecting the starts above. They are both open to nature and sheltered from it, and mirrors on the exterior walls make them appear even more immersed in their surroundings.
photo by LANCE GERBER
photo by LANCE GERBER
photo by LANCE GERBER
SKYBRIDGE, DETROIT, MICHIGAN
Artist Phillip K Smith III’s Skybridge is a monumental piece of public art that occupies an existing Detroit bridge that was no longer in use. The bridge was built in the 1970s on the 16th floor, connecting two skyscrapers.
Appearing at times like a UFO or a lost strip of neon from the set of Blade Runner, this incredible work of art lends its gargantuan stature to its positioning, seemingly hovering between the two buildings. Smith is known for his meditative use of light and color in outdoor settings.
MUCEM ROOF GARDEN, MARSEILLE, FRANCE
The Mucem Roof Gardene is part of the larger architecture of Marseille’s striking Mucem, an art museum that is a work of art in and of itself. Also known as the J4 building, it was designed by Rudy Ricciotti in association with Roland Carta.
The delicate, lattice-looking structure that mostly covers the building and forms a tree-like “garden” at its top is actually made of fiber-reinforced concrete and makes up 150,000 square meters of the museum’s space. This open mesh is meant to blend with the surroundings, evoking the surrounding sea and craggy rocks that make up its striking Mediterranean environment.