Guest Blog: Modern Architecture and Design Society (MA+DS)
Art has been intrinsic to the modernist experience since it’s inception. In fact, even though modernism itself could be (incompletely) described as a reaction to the ornate structures and technical leanings of the Victorian era, modernism, in its effort to celebrate expression free from restrictive convention, quickly developed a style all its own. But art has always been tied closely to architecture, from the first glyphs found in early man’s cave dwellings, to high works of art like Rome’s Church of St. Ignatius, where the trompe l’oeil Baroque masterpiece actually appears to extend the ceiling into heaven! (Considering the excellence of the illusion, it’s not surprising, perhaps, that the artist, Jesuit Brother Andrea Pozzo, was also known for his architecture.)
Today, art and architecture are combined like never before, as municipalities across the globe have begun to understand that the convergence of forward-thinking design and exhibition can create civic pride, citizen engagement, and on a more fundamental level, a great chance for local minds to stretch their creativity unencumbered by end user requirements for housing, commercial codes or other restrictions.
For the past 5 years, Austin’s Waller Creek Conservancy has been on the forefront of these opportunities and garnered national attention by tying a downtown urban renewal program to an annual interactive, popup art exhibit called Creekshow. Billed as “an outreach program designed to surprise and delight audiences with outstanding light-based art installations that celebrate, support, and educate the community on the importance and impact transforming Waller Creek will have on Austin’s social, cultural, and ecological future,” Creekshow incorporates installations designed in harmony with the existing structures and natural resources of the Waller Creek area, an urban waterway that meanders through the city core. The first official showing open to the public is tonight, November 9th from 6-10pm and will run through November 17th.
What does it mean?
From the beginning, the Creekshow project was intended to involve the greater Austin community in the concept of urban renewal and repurposed center-city space. In a 2013 interview, about a year before the first event, Waller Creek Conservancy Board President Melba Whatley explained, “The great challenge for us is to encourage people to think about Waller Creek as a place to go, when there is really nothing for them to visit yet.”
And that is, after all, the problem facing many urban centers today. Despite studies that clearly show the livability benefits of redevelopment, green space, and public parkland and recreational areas, in an era of continual budget cuts and restricted funding it can be a hard sell. And that is precisely why projects like Creekshow are critical to helping cities rethink their investments. By involving local architects, artists and an amazing amount of modern design and technology, we can get the public excited about our urban center’s past AND its future, with architecture and design leading the way.
The Modern Architecture + Design Society produces architecture and design events across North America.
Photo Credit: Jamie Leasure