Client: City of Scottsdale
Location: Scottsdale, AZ, United States
Completion date: 2017
Artwork budget: $58,000
Public Art Agent
Scottsdale Public Art
City of Scottsdale
J2 Engineering and Environmental Design
Hunter Contracting Company
‘Birdie Umwelt’ by Mary Lucking is a collection of sculptures and sandblasted designs located at the Mustang Transit Center and the Mustang Public Library in Scottsdale, Arizona. “Thinking about the differences in the way we humans and birds use and perceive spaces, I wondered what books in the nearby Mustang Library these creatures might find most compelling,” Lucking said. It comprises 20 bronze and stainless steel sculptures of house finches reading different books plus a bird house that mimics the postmodern architecture of the library. Throughout the pathways are images of birds, feathers, and lettering sandblasted into the sidewalk.
The City of Scottsdale wanted to improve the transit amenities, pedestrian and bicycle paths, a new signal, and a roundabout in the area along the 90th Street corridor between Shea Boulevard and Mountain View Road. The project connects three existing bus routes and one future route, as well as providing convenient access for all travel modes to Mustang Library, Scottsdale Healthcare, and other nearby retail and commercial centers. Within this project, the City of Scottsdale also wanted to include public artwork that would encourage people to explore the area and to sit and enjoy the space while waiting for public transportation. Lucking achieved this by connecting the east side bus shelter, the library, and a greenbelt pathway with a sandblasted sidewalk trail of birds and feathers. In addition she placed the bird and book sculptures in different locations around the area for people to explore and find.
The artist, Scottsdale Public Art, the City, and the construction and landscape teams worked together to incorporate the artwork into the streetscape and landscape design. They held meetings that included integrating the sandblasted images and the birdhouse post into the construction drawings, along with determining the bird and book sculpture sites. The artist and landscape team also traveled to Queen Creek, Arizona, to carefully select the boulders for the site. The rocks needed fit into the landscape design and act as pedestals for the bird and book sculptures. In addition, community meetings were held at the library to gather information on what books people wanted to see included in the project. Birdhouse suggestion boxes were also used to gather information from the public, which brought in around 200 suggestions total. The artist reviewed the community ideas and selected books she thought were appropriate from that list. She also did additional library research to find other books that would round out the theme. After the books were chosen, Scottsdale Public Art reached out to the authors, publishers, and illustrators to secure permission to replicate select pages from their works on the bird and book sculptures.
One of the most exciting things that has come from this project is how City officials loved the sculptures so much that they requested 10 more bird and book sculptures after the first set of 10 were installed in 2017. The Mustang Public Library is also thrilled to have a public art piece that relates to the books in the library. For the summer of 2019, they have set up a scavenger hunt through their Summer Reading Program that has patrons searching for all 20 books, and if they find all 20, they will receive a prize.