In the early 2000s, the park redevelopment became a priority as part of a larger plan to redevelop the surrounding neighborhoods. The commission was awarded to an ambitious design from Nothard (who recently won a Design Bureau “best architect” award for the South Florida region). Rather than a simple park, Nothard conceived of a “cultural arts destination and passive landscaped environment” that combines architecture, landscape design, and an active arts programing approach that surpasses the usual “jazz-in-the-park” offerings of such spaces. Placing arts programming at the heart of her design, Nothard’s plan features two pavilions—one for performance and the other for art studios designed to provide public space for demonstrations and classes.
Nothard’s architectural work is often environmentally sensitive. At the ArtsPark, a key feature emerged in the water/nature project proposed by Japanese public artist Ritsuko Taho. Called Millennium Springs, the centerpiece of the work consists of a 126-foot-long “water sculpture” with computer-manipulated water jets. (The city had specified a “spectacular fountain” in its RFP).
Taho was inspired by the park’s existing baobab trees—which are known as the “tree of life,” and during their thousand-years lifespan absorb hundreds of gallons of water. “The significance of the Baobab Tree as a source of water and of life itself cannot be underestimated,” Taho wrote in her proposal, “and thus it is natural that it should play a key role in defining the actual form of the water sculpture.” To incorporate the tree into her final design, Taho harnessed the electronic signals from the trees and used them to determine the algorithmic height and duration of the water jets. Other elements of Taho’s design pay tribute to Hollywood’s founder, whose statue stands in the circle.
The finished version of the park is a remarkable success, earning accolades throughout the region and winning popularity from the public. Regular events include a moonlit drum circle, interactive/hands-on family arts activities, a discothèque, and regular food-truck events. While the economic recession has interrupted development around the circle, there are signs that a recovery will bring new investment. A charter high school recently opened the doors of a newly constructed arts and sciences high school located on the circle.
All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.