Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Civic Vitality in the Peripheral Spaces of Tacoma’s Theater District

Michael Carey

The Theater District in Tacoma is a dense urban environment that has been praised for its improvisational spaces which are subject to change at the will of the users. Included in the Theater District is several small scale pocket parks along with the larger fireman’s Park; all of which are not heavily frequented. To the contrary, the peripheral “loose spaces” are much livelier with the ripeness of cultural diversity. Because of the high frequency of pedestrian flow, and the desire to participate in personalizing the landscape, these malleable peripheral spaces set the stage for the expression of cultural identity.
Painting a Sense of Place
As the downtown area of Tacoma has been redeveloped overtime, many building facades have become unified with a seemingly monotonous veneer. In order to add variety while still retaining visual cohesion to the building facades, mural art has been accepted as an artful way to give the pedestrians a sense of place in the landscape.
Public Amenity Art
The adaptation of everyday amenities into public art is one of the many ways that the inhabitants of the Theater district can leave their identifying mark on the landscape. Through creating artworks out of public amenities, such as sidewalks, handrails and community message boards, artists are able to change the everyday spaces in the urban environment into places that become attractions in themselves. Creating an awareness of the roles that amenities play in upholding our everyday lives challenges the public to think about how beauty can comingle with functionality.
Amalgamation of Public Space and Private Gain
On the corner of 11th and Broadway is one of the most pedestrian friendly places in the Theater District. At this intersection Broadway has been redirected off of the street grid, and around the sculptural fountain, to give pedestrian traffic the hierarchical right-of-way. Because of the strong aesthetic attractiveness of the fountain, in coordination with the ease of pedestrian access, local businesses have claimed this space to post signs advertising their stores and restaurants. During the work week, when most of the shops are open, this corner becomes so occupied by business advertisement signs that it creates a large pedestrian traffic conflict. If the function of the space was preserved, over the desire of the businesses to solicit patrons, a harmonious amalgamation of private interest in the public space could be achieved.

No comments:

Post a Comment