Sharring experiences in urban infrastructure delivery.

Sidewalk Art: Puzzles

By: Tom Davis Category: Sidewalk Art, Sidewalk Features, Special Surfaces

On Prairie Street in downtown Houston (map) the Cotswold Project added art in the widened sidewalk areas and one of the installations uses puzzle shapes with sandblasted artist created patterns. There are several aspects to this installation–and more than a few lessons–you may find interesting. The process we experienced–the challenges and the rewards–are enumerated below.sidewalkpuzzels2.jpg

  1. The bid documents for the low-bid street/utility contractor (i.e. typically not experienced in art installations) identified the art installation area although there were few details and the bidder was lead to think the area would be filled by the artist under a separate contract.
  2. The details should have been provided by the local art council who identified the art, selected artist and was to oversee the installation. The architect should have insisted on a complete design that could be bid and installed and insisted the council provide their part of the design.
  3. The design details were developed by the construction management team with the contract and a change order was executed. The architect provide the puzzle piece patterns and the contractor commission 4″ deep by 1/8″ thick stainless steel shapes that matched the patterns.
  4. The architect then worked with the artist to select which shapes were to be filled with two colors of concrete (limited number to to manage the extra costs) and the architect and artist were at the site to adjust the shapes position in relation to the other sidewalk features before the dyed concrete was poured. Once the shapes were filled and set the standard concrete sidewalk was poured around the shapes.
  5. The artist then designed patterns that were cut into steel sheets. The sheets were laid on the colored concrete in the locations directed by the artist. The grout surface of the concrete exposed by the pattern in the steel sheet was removed by sand blasting to expose the aggregate below.sidewalkpuzzelscloseup.jpg
  6. An advantage of this design is it provides full depth colored concrete that does not show gray concrete below when scratched. Plus the stones exposed by the sandblasting have a good contrast to the colored cement that binds them.
  7. A disadvantage is that the dark concrete quickly shows silt and other materials as you can see in the photos.
  8. If you consider adding such an amenity to your sidewalk first consider if you want to call it art. Art is considered a creation of the artist and federal law now provides the artist rights to the art and imposes responsibilities on you.

All pieces are part of the City of Houston’s Art Collection.


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