Olympic sculpture park: A museum masquerading as Public Space?

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Jason Hutto

The Olympic Sculpture Park, nine acres of Elliott Bay shorefront property dedicated to the public display, appreciation, and enjoyment of sculpture in an outdoor setting, opened to the public on January 20, 2007. The three distinct parcels of land consisting of a former fuel storage and transfer facility for Union of California (UNOCAL) presented the designer’s challenges of site contamination, remediation, and integration. The stated objectives of lead designers, Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, were to “create a sculpture park at the intersection of the city and the sound, defining a new model for bringing art to the public and the public to the park (“Design”) and to “embrace the city’s energy and create collaboration between art, landscape, architecture and infrastructure” (“Design Team”). Their intent was to seamlessly bring together both landscape and design, to “transport art outside the museum walls and bring the park into a landscape of the city… implicitly questioning where the art begins and where it ends” (“Design Team”). The fundamental aspect of the park is its attempts to establish connections between all parts, weaving an urban fabric of life, landscape, infrastructure, and art. Does it successfully achieve these aspirations? Is it a museum masquerading as a public space? Does the designs strict adherence to spaces that are large permanent and formal compromise the attempts to effectively integrating the all components of aggregate urbanism? I encourage all to dissect the components of this aggregate landscape in search for the answers.

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