On my second trip visiting Arizona, I hiked, biked, and drove to explore some unique art installations. Some were far-flung, in the desert, and some in the middle of urban life. One such location in Scottsdale is the Soleri Plaza, designed by artist Paolo Soleri. The plaza, intended to celebrate the solar calendar, uses a… Read more »
On my second trip visiting Arizona, I hiked, biked, and drove to explore some unique art installations. Some were far-flung, in the desert, and some in the middle of urban life. One such location in Scottsdale is the Soleri Plaza, designed by artist Paolo Soleri. The plaza, intended to celebrate the solar calendar, uses a series of totemic panels to frame a pathway through the site. The solar axis is ultimately highlighted through the structure of a pedestrian bridge that connects the plaza to the surrounding district. The installation is a piece of curious workmanship. Elegant and humble, the plaza reflects on the essence of culture, experience and life of Scottsdale.
The pedestrian bridge, gaining 9 feet in elevation from north to south, is anchored by two parallel 64-foot-tall steel pylons. Along with the bridge span structure, the upright pylons resemble oversized steel pipe. The change of elevation creates different visual perspectives at each end of the bridge: Looking across the bridge from the low end makes the span seem very short, while the view from the high end makes the bridge look quite long. Benefitting from ample sunlight and a true north axis, the bridge was also designed to celebrate solar events by marking the sun’s shadow. The parallel steel supports were placed just six inches apart in order to capture a shaft of light as the sun passes. At each annual solstice and equinox, a beam of sunlight is cast along the red paving stripe in the center of the bridge. The shadows of the pylons vary in length depending on the time of year and indicate the seasonal solar events.
Soleri plaza is like a canvas rendered with many different shades of life. It references the social changes that pervade the relationships of people to their environment and to their fellows. Soleri Plaza also balances tactile and visual interaction. Some elements of landscape we can admire but not touch. Some create a sense of connection through which we can actually interact with the work. This tension compels us to seek a deeper meaning behind design. Soleri Bridge pleases the eyes at a distance as we walk up to it, our hand as we touch it, and our bodies as we walk away. These three elements combine to create a story unique to each individual experiencing the plaza while providing a feast of colors and shapes for the eye. As we walk across the bridge, surrounded by the classical Italian-inspired bronze bells designed by Soleri, we feel connected to the past. People were here. Memories associated with people find themselves here.
As one who is further developing my personal design philosophy, my interaction with the Soleri Plaza reminds me of the importance of both visual perspective and the creative use of tension to increase the depth of experience in functional urban design.
Photo courtesy of Rosario Strano.