Client: Ryan Companies / City of Saint Paul
Location: Saint Paul, MN, United States
Completion date: 2015
Artwork budget: $170,000
Meander is a public artwork commissioned for CHS Field, a new baseball stadium in downtown St. Paul. The artwork consists of fifteen sculptural concrete pillars, each capped with a glass lantern containing programmable LEDs. Meander illustrates over 200 years of historical information about the changing geometry of the Mississippi River, which runs several blocks away. The form of the pillars is inspired by historical river maps, while the lights broadcast data collected from the river. Meander illustrates how data spatialization processes merge with a commitment to ecology, reimagining public spaces, and fostering new kinds of interactive engagement with public audiences.
The integration of the artwork with the design of the new ballpark was of paramount importance for this project. The objective for all stakeholders was for the piece to work in concert with the architecture of the ballpark, rather than appearing as an afterthought or additive element. The public art team was brought on early in the process while the building was still in the design phase, so there was ample opportunity to work with the architects and engineers to determine an optimal site in which the artwork would complement the architecture and provide maximum opportunity for public interaction. The raw concrete materiality of the artwork echoes that of the surrounding plaza, with its concrete retaining walls and paving surfaces. The plantings surrounding the artwork—prairie drop seed grasses—were selected in collaboration with the landscape architects as a way to accentuate the artwork’s geometry and presence along the sidewalk.
The public artists were brought on early in the design phase of the project; this enabled a fruitful collaboration among the artists, architects, landscape architects, and engineers. The artists collaborated with design architects Snow Kreilich and landscape architect Bob Close to identify suitable sites for the artwork within the ballpark and strategize how the building and landscape architecture could adapt to strengthen the artwork. The artists worked with Ryan Companies—both the executive architect and contractor for the ballpark—to fully coordinate the artwork’s construction with the phasing of the building. The artists worked with the relevant subcontractors to locate structural footings, coordinate electrical runs, and size and locate the steel supports. Collaboration on a shared, integrated digital Building Information Model facilitated these close collaborations. The site work was completed months in advance of the artwork’s installation (so as to stay with the schedule for the larger project). Meanwhile, the concrete and glass pillars were fabricated offsite and delivered to the site in April 2015. The high level of collaboration and coordination in the months prior enabled the artwork to be installed and completed over the course of 4 days.
An essential aspect of this project was an extensive community engagement effort. At the start of the project, the artists developed two separate schemes for the artwork. Throughout this phase, the artists hosted a number of public outreach events, to solicit feedback and facilitate community dialog about the role of public art in the city of St. Paul. The two design options were presented to the community and the ballpark’s Design & Construction committee, an advisory board of local stakeholders. With community input from an online voting process, the committee unanimously selected Meander from the two options. More info: http://www.meander.futures-north.com/