Saturday, December 14, 2013

Streetcar Stop for Portland

Here's a slideshow of Streetcar Stop for Portland, the shiny new structure at the NE Broadway & Ross streetcar stop (hence the name). This is one of two new public art pieces added as part of the Central Loop streetcar line, the other being Inversion: Plus Minus at the Hawthorne & Morrison bridges. From the RACC press release about it:

Jorge Pardo’s “Streetcar Stop for Portland” is located on North Broadway at the triangle of Wheeler Avenue and Weidler Street. Fabricated of steel, wood and fiberglass, the new shelter measures 35’ long by 18’ wide by 16’ tall. The multi-faceted structure includes over 300 individual panels in vibrant shades of orange, yellow, red and grey.

Jorge Pardo was born in Havana, Cuba, and emigrated to the United States in 1969. He studied at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena from 1984-1988 and has exhibited globally since his first solo show in Los Angeles in 1988. In 2010 he was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (see Pardo lives and works between Merida, Mexico, Los Angeles and Long Island; currently his studio is in the Yucatan. This is his first municipal project in the United States.

PORT has an interesting (if somewhat fanboy-ish) interview with Pardo, with photos of Streetcar Stop (which apparently lights up at night) and several other projects of his.

I really like Streetcar Stop, in general. It's bright orange and has all sorts of interesting crazy angles, and it lights up at night, and generally looks like 1977's groovy idea of what futuristic 2013 public art would be like, except that it's not located on the Moon or in a dome under the sea, and it's next to a streetcar instead of a monorail.

The one detail I would point out here is that the name says "stop", not "shelter". The top is semi-open, and if you run to it to escape a sudden downpour, you're going to end up wet and disappointed. The thing is, the city's never going to approve something that would potentially keep rain off of homeless people. If it was dry inside, someone would sleep there, and that, apparently, would be the worst possible thing ever. Especially since the whole point of the streetcar line is to help gentrify the inner eastside. This is nothing new, of course; ever since homelessness got on the public radar, roughly the mid-1980s or so, cities around the country have worked to make their public spaces unwelcoming for the homeless. So you get things like park benches with an armrest down the middle so they're hard to sleep on, the removal of awnings over sidewalks, and so forth. And I get that a park full of sleeping or drunk homeless men and their shopping carts is going to scare "respectable" people away and make the space seem unwelcoming. I guess the thing that leaps out at me in this particular case is that both the streetcar stop and Inversion: Plus Minus allude to the idea of buildings and shelter but don't actually provide any. It may not have been intentional, but it just strikes me as a gesture of unnecessary meanness: We could've built a roof for the same money and kept you dry, but we chose not to.

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