“Great public spaces are where celebrations are held, social and economic exchanges take place, friends run into each other, and cultures mix. They are the “front porches” of our public institutions – libraries, field houses, neighborhood schools – where we interact with each other and government. When the spaces work well, they serve as a stage for our public lives.”
– Project for Public Spaces
The question of what exactly constitutes as a successful public space can be exemplified by the multi-purpose art, cultural, and park space of Minneapolis’ Sculpture Garden, which is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year. The 11.2-acre garden is one of the largest urban sculpture gardens in the country and consists of four 100-foot-square plazas showcasing sculptures by renowned artists from around the world. The garden is also home to the Twin Cities' iconic sculpture of "Spoonbridge and Cherry."
According to the Project for Public Spaces, a successful place can be evaluated based on the following four criteria: access & linkages, comfort & image, uses & activities, and sociability.
- Access & Linkages
The Sculpture Garden is connected and intertwined to the surrounding amenities such as the Walker Art Center, the Kenilworth Regional Trail, and Loring Park. The Garden is linked to Loring Park via the 375-foot-long Irene Hixon Whitney pedestrian bridge designed by the Twin Cities artist Siah Armajani spanning the busy Hennepin Avenue which links the area to cities Interstates, as well as downtown and uptown Minneapolis.
- Comfort & Image
The park and garden are frequented by spectators and residents year–round. Due to its partnership with the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, the park is well maintained and provides more than an adequate amount of seating, as well as outdoor and balcony seating in the nearby Walker Art Center.
- Uses & Activities
The Walker Art Center provides plenty of activities and things to do in the cold winter months and especially in the summer months. One can visit the latest exhibit from around the world; catch a latest showing of inspiring and educational documentaries, such as ‘Urbanized’ or international films; or sit in on a free lecture, such as last Thursday’s Next Generation of Parks series on the world renowned landscape architect Eelco Hooftman of Gross. Max. In addition, the vast green space is often packed in the summer months with events such as the annual Rock the Garden, Open Field, or the Internet Cat Videos Film Festival.
One cannot talk about sociability without mentioning Loring Park, site of various cultural, social and political events in Minneapolis and directly connected to the Sculpture Garden. The park was designed by the American landscape architect and pioneer of the Minneapolis Parkway System, Horace Cleveland. The park is often swarming with the eccentric population of the surrounding neighborhood, and in the summer months its open areas are home to music festivals, parades and other event including the Minneapolis Music and Movies In The Parks put on by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
Although the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and its surrounding amenities serve as a great example of a successful social place, the common areas are mainly used in the summer, which, in Minnesota, is only three months out of the year. What can public spaces do in order to serve the same public purpose of social gatherings in those cold winter months as well as they do in the summer?
Credits: Photographs by Jasna Hadzic. Data linked to sources.