Cairns Garden, 2020.

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Client: Canopy by Hilton, Tempe, AZ.

Location: Tempe, AZ, United States

Completion date: 2020

Artwork budget: $150,000

Project Team

Artist/Fabricator

John Randall Nelson

Nelson Public Art

Installation

Scott Talbot

Art Solutions

Fabricator

Ron Ruff

R.J. Ruff and Co.

Designer

Matt Kosednar

Allen + Philp Architects

Overview

“Cairns Garden” is a public art installation sited at Canopy by Hilton in Tempe. A cairn is a human-made stack of stones. Cairns represent a broad variety of purposes from the prehistoric to the present. In modern times cairns are often erected as landmarks to represent the beginning of a trail. Inspired by the history engraved landscape, nine cairns mark a metaphorical trailhead. They conjure the Sonoran desert while referencing the language of ancient petroglyphs.

Goals

The goal of the project was to create a contemporary trailhead that carves out a space for travelers to explore, rest, look around and engage with the multi-layered history of Tempe.

Process

The cairn’s stones were quarried in central Arizona and the striped rock is Black Canyon Onyx, a stone variegated with unique hues of desert blush, ridges of amber and veins of jade green. All were quarried along Big Bug Creek in Mayer, an old cowboy town about 85 miles northeast of Tempe.

It takes about 1 million years to create 12” of the Onyx. Each layer reflects the sediment left when water flowed in and out of the area.

After discussing a concept and direction with the developers and the City of Tempe, we presented several ideas. With feedback from the stakeholders, the desert cairns theme was chosen. Cairns Garden is the end result of a collaboration between Tempe Public Art, Hilton Hotels and Nelson Public Art.