Artists take on space and sound at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis

St. Louis, Missouri, is having a cultural moment. Architecture-related art projects abound, which means that artists take serious note of how structure and spaces might inspire their work.

In the Pulitzer Arts Foundation’s building designed by Tadao Ando, ​​the Turner Prize-winning Scottish artist Susan Philipsz reacted to the building itself. On behalf of the foundation’s water court, Too Much I Once Lamented, five speakers will play the sung rendition of a 1622 ballad by the composter Thomas Tomkins. It is a response to the acoustics of the hard and fluid surfaces of the room. Philipsz, who specializes in sound installations that transform the space into “immersive environments of architecture and song”, used reflection and projection for this site-specific work.

The Pulitzer Arts Foundation headquarters by Tadao Ando (courtesy of the Puiltzer Arts Foundation)

Also on display at the foundation is Zarina: Atlas of Her World, created by the Indian-American artist Zarina, who wanted to become an architect but instead studied mathematics and printmaking. The 82-year-old is inspired by her childhood during and after the division, the division of British India into the independent states of India and Pakistan in 1947. The idea of ​​displacement and the concept of home as well as their interest in modernism, abstraction and geometry can be seen in Home Is a Foreign Place (1999). In this piece Zarina shows 36 woodcuts, each of which is reminiscent of architectural spaces (threshold, door and courtyard).

An arched lattice in Zarina’s shadow house I, 2008, is reminiscent of living rooms and Jalis, the ubiquitous Indian architectural stone walls. Pool II, 1980, a paper sculpture, “gives clues to the architecture of your home, including courtyards, arches and stepwells.” Delhi, 2000 is a three-part work showing the city in plan and section.

Interior shot of the exhibition hall with a wall of framed picturesHome is a Strange Place (1999) (Courtesy Pulitzer Arts Foundation)

Across the street from the Ando building on an empty lot, the Park-Like Foundation commissioned landscape architect Chris Carl from Studio Land Arts. From next spring, the property will become a sustainable rain garden, a plant installation and a public space – an infrastructure for biological diversity. The site was leveled to create two mounds and, during the excavation, building fragments were unearthed and incorporated into the design. When it opens, thick black mulch chains meander along the paths as indigenous and non-indigenous plant and flower carpet areas for walking, sitting and playing.

Exterior shot of the park under construction Park-like next spring 2020 (Courtesy of the Pulitzer Arts Foundation)

Studio Land Arts, a Granite City, Illinois-based company, is located directly across from the Mississippi River from St. Louis. It is a steel making town that was founded in 1896 and has seen a minor revival in the last decade, although it is still poor. The newly discovered enthusiasm in the region has made Granite City a ripe place for creative placemaking.

Groups like Granite City Art and Design District (G-CADD), founded by a trained urban planner who microfinance creative spaces, are doing big things. G-CADD’s current New American Gardening project is transforming vacant lots and post-industrial land into works of art such as Slot Lot, a sculptural compilation of a parking lot with excavated rectangles reassembled in piles of asphalt. Much like Park-Like, Slot Lot’s success is based on transforming everyday spaces which, if you pay attention to them, become cornerstones of the community.

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