Heart of the City: Art and Equity in Process and Place - CODAworx

Heart of the City: Art and Equity in Process and Place

Client: Destination Medical Center

Location: Rochester, MN, United States

Completion date: 2022

Project Team


Destination Medical Center (DMC)


Eric Anderson


Ann Hamilton with Dr. Gwen Westerman


Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle

Curatorial Lead

Hesse McGraw

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

Art Integration Project Manager

John Reeves

El dorado inc

Curatorial Project Manager

Tiffany Meesha Thompson, EMBA

Petrichor Projects

Art Integration Designer

Brock Traffas

El dorado inc

Landscape Architecture and Urban Design Lead


Fountain Designer

Fluidity Design Consultants

Civil, Electrical and Structural Engineering


Stone Fabrication

Quarra Stone

Bench and Movable Furniture Detailing

Latent Design

Project Management

Kraus Anderson


Precision Hardscape

Scrim pool

Global Specialty Contractors


Heart of the City is a bold transformation of downtown Rochester, MN, into a public realm of experiential zones, community-driven activations and world-class public art that sets the stage for healthy development adjacent to the Mayo Clinic. Heart of the City’s Peace Plaza establishes a balance between the contemplative and healing atmosphere that reverberates from the Clinic and a public space that celebrates downtown life.

Integrated public artworks create a space that resonates with the community and honors the site’s cultural and historical context. Ann Hamilton’s Song for Water embeds Dr. Gwen Westerman’s poem De Wakpa Taŋka Odowaŋ / Song for the Mississippi River into granite pavers throughout the 200-foot-long plaza, acknowledging the area’s history as Dakota land.

Eric Anderson’s Wakefield emits light and fog from the ground to honor the first and last breaths of life. This artwork activates in response to these life events at Mayo Clinic, inviting visitors to reflect on their own presence in this place.

Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle‘s stainless steel sculpture, A Not So Private Sky, offers multiple reflective experiences of the sky.

Since opening in 2022, Peace Plaza has activated downtown Rochester, hosting 100+ events and drawing 2,500+ daily pedestrians.


The integration of artists during concept design into the design team and public art into the project was crucial for transforming Peace Plaza into a meaningful and engaging environment. This transformation aimed to enhance the healing process at the Mayo Clinic and create a bustling public space that celebrates the essence of downtown life. Through this collaborative effort, the project remained rooted in the community's values and aspirations.

We approached the plaza through three main design processes: Creative Community Engagement, Make It About Art, and Healthy Place for People and Nature.

A pivotal moment during our public engagement outreach was when we distilled the public's core project principles. These principles served as our guide throughout the artwork's project development. One of the initial engagement sessions helped summarize the public's core project goals:

Make It Rochester
Make It A Destination
Make It Big & Keep It Small
Reveal The Unseen
Make It About Life
Make It About Art
Make It About Healing
Make It Inviting
Embrace The North
Make It Bright
Make It Connected
Make it Green


Public art commissions for Heart of the City were developed through a curatorial process embedded within the design team. Early in design, the client prioritized integrating curators, artists, and community stakeholders within the cross-disciplinary design team and charged that artworks should be integral to the plaza's infrastructure and experience. Prior to the design phase, the client group presented a prototyping festival, through which local artists, including Eric Anderson, piloted concepts that were further developed during design.

To commence artwork development, artists were invited to spend time in Rochester, both at the site, and in the community, and respond to their experiences through project proposals that were integrated into schematic design. Collectively, the plaza and its embedded artworks encourage us to be present in this place — both in moments of personal introspection and shared spectacle. Together these artworks create layered stories of time and place that will never repeat due to the interactive and responsive nature of the works. Each visit to the plaza, whether for an event, or alone, offers new discoveries.

The artworks intentionally ground visitors on Mni Sota Makoce (Dakota for Minnesota), which means “The Land Where the Waters Reflect the Sky.”

Additional Information

Eric Anderson’s Wakefield is a dynamic artwork that emits light and fog from the ground to visualize and honor the first and last breaths of life. The artwork activates in real-time in response to these health events occurring within nearby Mayo Clinic. Wakefield invites us to slow down, be present in this place, to consider where we are in our lives, where we are in the lives of others, or to simply be at peace. // Ann Hamilton’s A Song for Water is a collaboration with Dakota poet Gwen Westerman. The stone pavement, A Song for Water, weaves concepts of time, geography, place, and the beginnings of human cultures with Westerman’s poem De Wakpa Taŋka Odowaŋ - Song for the Mississippi River. Extending the length of Peace Plaza, the field of relief carved words invites people moving across its surface to uniquely compose and recompose its narratives in each crossing. // Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle’s work A Not So Private Sky serves as a beacon that connects Ann Hamilton’s paving artwork with the sky. The stacks of polished steel dodecahedrons represent the shape of carbon atoms, the platonic solids that are the basis of earth, air, water, and life within the universe. // Photo Credits: © Sahar Coston-Hardy