Maybe it's no Tilted Arc, but a large concrete sculpture in a small Belltown park could spark a local version of the controversy that surrounded the removal of Richard Serra's huge, looming sculpture from a federal office building plaza in New York City in 1989. The currently endangered sculpture is Gyrojack, a composition of tilting, stacked disks sitting at the corner of Third and Bell. Regrade Park-a multi-use pocket park featuring Gyrojack, half-court basketball, a mostly unused children's play area, and a regular assortment of dealers and drunken, drugged-up habitués-was adopted last year by then-council member Tina Podlodowski. Pod introduced, and the council passed, a budget item to fund a $20,000 renovation of the park, including the removal and possible re-siting of the sculpture. Gyrojack is accused of promoting drug trafficking by blocking the street-view of a large chunk of the park, and possibly even serving as a hiding place for drugs.
Certainly, the currently prevailing wisdom of park design would line up against a large, view-blocking sculpture at the entrance to a park, but people tend to get pissed off when public art is destroyed. The focal point of this tension will be a hearing the Parks Department has scheduled for Tuesday, March 7 at 7:00 p.m. at their 100 Dexter Ave. N. offices, where the department will present their proposed changes and take public comment.
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A new local architecture firm-so new they don't have a listing in the phone book yet-won an honorable mention in a high-profile contest to redesign the tkts booth in Times Square, where Broadway theatergoers line up daily to buy discounted tickets. U-Arc Studio is a team of four architects who work out of a sun-drenched office in a former laser-tag joint on Capitol Hill. U-Arc received notice for their glass-walled and roofed building, which used repeated versions of tkts' iconic lower-case logo as the building's only structural elements, fusing the brand with the building in a permanent way. I dropped by U-Arc last week to look at some of their local projects: They're working on the interiors of a pair of loft buildings in Belltown, and developing another loft project for a site on East Pike Street on Capitol Hill, using steel and glass construction materials-which should ensure that their buildings are more durable than most of the new, quickly thrown-up construction in Seattle.
The winners of the tkts competition were the Australian architects John Choi and Tai Ropiha, who look to have been inspired by the famous, red-stair-stepped roof of Casa Malaparte on the isle of Capri (a building familiar to film fans from its use in Godard's Contempt). Taken from its isolation on Capri and inserted into the most high-profile site in America, the red wedge of steps will serve as an amphitheater, with Times Square itself as the stage show.
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Last Friday's lecture by Daniel Libeskind at Benaroya Hall was marred by a typical sort of Seattle provincialism. Libeskind is a smart, incredibly adventurous architect-his addition to the Victoria and Albert Museum of London, for example, is a decentered, compacted spiral form, its jutting angles covered in ceramic tiling, with patterns inspired by fractal theory. Unfortunately, but unavoidably, his intelligent offerings struck but one chord in the minds of his Seattle audience: Wow, and Seattle thinks Frank Gehry and Rem Koolhaas are "out there." This thought led the audience to treat as laugh lines anything Libeskind said that could be read as a criticism of those architects. Fortunately, this phenomenon subsided by the time we reached the Q&A, and Libeskind escaped without discovering how self-obsessed Seattle's architecture set really is.
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