a charlotte street 15 year anniversary project considering the history and future of artist-driven pioneering in Kansas City and the changing nature of the city's "frontiers"
With relevance to the nature of downtown Kansas City’s urban environment and the role artistic interventions within this environment might play in framing, amplifying, and further shaping this environment, we post this video and essay by Beating the Bounds Phase I team artist James Woodfill of his Pedestrian Strands, a public art project for the Baltimore Avenue, Main Street, Walnut Street and Grand Boulevard Bridges over I-670. Kansas City, Missouri. Completed 2008. Design Team: James Woodfill, Artist; el dorado inc, Architects; Genesis Structures: Structural Engineering; Lankford And Associates: Electrical Engineering.
For some time now my influences as an artist have come from the built environment, its ad-hoc generation and regeneration, its layers of function and the physical quality of materials as they are used to achieve an array of needs and aspirations. Our perceptions of the built environment are fluid, focused by our intentions, with parts and pieces asserting themselves as connections become apparent, and then receding into the background as new connections replace them. As a whole, the built environment seems to act as an ambient background – our perception of it built with the culmination of a continuous flow of experiences.
These observations, in part, have been focused through ongoing collaborations with el dorado, so it was a natural progression for us to collaborate on this project. As we worked to “solve the problem” of guardrails, we began to see this solution as another one of the found intentions within the site, along with the highway and its functional infrastructure, the “intent” of making the area more pedestrian friendly, and the many different uses and scales of the surrounding architecture.
The pragmatic need was to provide a safe, durable guardrail system. Our aspiration was to offer an experience of unexpected sensorial connections with the actual condition of the site. Direct, reflected and multi-layered views are combined with actual and painted shadows that are combined with the smells of car exhaust and freshly mowed grass that are combined with the vertical bobbing of a bridge, fast moving cars and the hard urban wind.
Avoiding spectacle and edging towards normalcy, our hope is that the work amplifies the interactions between the city’s functions and ambitions, in a democratic way, without judgment, by welcoming the participation and embracing the existence of what is already there.