Despite reservations, Council approves design for parking garage facade

Monday, July 19, 2010 | 9:48 p.m. CDT; updated 12:24 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 20, 2010
A preliminary rendering of the northwest stair tower at the new Fifth and Walnut parking garage. Now that artist Stuart Keeler's concept has been approved, he will begin to finalize the design's specifics.

COLUMBIA — The City Council approved designs for the facade of the new parking garage at Fifth and Walnut at its meeting Monday night, despite concern voiced by several council members.

First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz, who cast the only dissenting vote, said his comments on the design would be “not very warm and fuzzy."

The process

  • The parking garage was designated as part of the Percent for Art program in June 2008.
  • The Standing Committee received 260 applications from artists after guidelines for the project were posted online in August 2009.
  • The Committee narrowed their selection to two finalists and selected Keeler in March 2010.
  • Keeler submitted four designs to the committee, which selected “Sky Algorithm” and posted it for public comment online in June 2010.
  • The Standing Committee voted 7-1 on July 2 to recommend the design to the Commission on Cultural Affairs.
  • The Commission voted unanimously on July 12 to recommend the design to City Council.
  • The City Council voted 6-1 July 19 to approve the design.
  • Keeler will work with the Standing Committee and Office of Cultural Affairs to finalize text and the design and will then begin production.

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“I have the sense that (the artist) is more of a conceptualist, not an artisan or craftsman, and that he doesn’t do much himself but comes up with concepts and sends them off to fabricators,” he said of Stuart Keeler, who designed the piece. “I don’t really buy the 38th parallel as a unifying concept for us to get behind as the most prominent piece of art in our city.”

Keeler’s design for the garage, entitled “Sky Algorithm,” would pull colors from the Columbia sky through pieces of colored glass surrounding the northwest stair tower of the garage. Keeler would etch the panes of glass with timestamps detailing when that particular color could be viewed in the sky, as well as words in languages of cities sharing the 38th latitudinal parallel with Columbia.

The text used in the piece has yet to be finalized but would relate to “universal themes of place and journey,” according to Kip Goodman, who presented the design to the council. Goodman is the chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Art, which unanimously recommended the approval of the “Sky Algorithm” design earlier this month.

Sturtz said community criticism of the sculpture outside the new City Hall building was part of the reason for his concern about Keeler's design. The “Key to the City” piece by artist Howard Meehan was installed in May. It was funded by the Percent for Art program, which will also provide funding for Keeler's piece. Keeler’s design will become Columbia's 11th Percent for Art project.

Both Sturtz and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe acknowledged the subjective element inherent in art.

“Some people will think it’s just colored glass, others will think it’s a wonderful concept,” Hoppe said.

Hoppe added that she might have preferred a more uniquely crafted piece but would still support the piece because she respected the work done by the committee to select and work with Keeler.

Two members of the Standing Committee spoke during the opportunity for public comment. Nancy Burdick and Paula Elias both supported Keeler's design and highlighted the amount of positive feedback received from the public.

“The best thing about art is that we all have an opinion,” Elias said. “Though I might not choose something like this for my living room, I want something that people can embrace and feel speaks to them for Columbia.”

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Phil Wilkinson July 20, 2010 | 12:18 a.m.

Seems like a big waste of funds to me. I am also curious as to who, what, when and where the "Public" gave positive feedback about this art design.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 20, 2010 | 6:32 a.m.

Popular use of the term "uglification" is credited to author Lewis Carroll, where it appears in Chapter IX of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." Alice and the Gryphon have come to visit the Mock Turtle, and are discussing the Mock Turtle's rather bizarre formal education.

Obviously, "uglification" is the opposite of "beautification."

Whether this new parking garage will beautify or uglify downtown Columbia is possibly better left to the individual viewer.

(Report Comment)
Andrew Hansen July 20, 2010 | 9:49 a.m.

It seems very 70s.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro July 20, 2010 | 12:40 p.m.

@Ellis Smith:
I tend to favor derision to uglification.
It's all a facade.
Just look at the library's hodge podge where one truly feels as if they've dropped down the rabbit hole and entered into a trip of sorts.
Why should this city not seek to approve bizarro world decor?
Walk through any keyholes lately?
And yes, you are right. The individual viewer will see these sights through their own lenses and chemical substances ingested. For one pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small.
You are indeed worthy of being called tortoise and thank you for comparing Columbia to Wonderland.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 21, 2010 | 6:24 a.m.

@ Ray Shapiro

Your comment has caused me to think further (about 20 nanoseconds worth) about parking garages. Parking garages are so ... 20th Century.

Today's Question: Of the four campuses in University of Missouri System there is one campus with no parking garages*. Where is that campus located? At that campus there's definitely no fear faculty members might be murdered in parking garages.

*- Sufficient hitching posts are available for faculty and student use.

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock July 21, 2010 | 8:54 a.m.

Ellis I know exactly which parking lot you are talking about. lol I have parked there many times and they have expanded the lots but I am surprised they haven't built a garage yet.

(Report Comment)

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