This past summer I read a fascinating article in The New York Review of Books (Aug 13, 2009) called Up in the Park by Martin Filler. The question arises in every urban environment as to what to do with outmoded infrastructure. Often it is torn down to create room for yet another mall, or housing development, or high rise, but more and more frequently these days it is being recycled “into a new kind of public recreation space.” This is the case in NYC, where a “long-defunct cargo railroad trestle” called the High Line, which traversed about 1 1/2 miles through the West Side of Manhatten, was turned into a park. opening in June 2009.
The High Line, an elevated train 30 feet in the air, originally built during the Great Depression to facilitate delivery of goods to manufacturers as part of the West Side Improvement Project, “followed a mid-block, back-door path in the Chelsea district between and through spaces behind buildings, which made the tracks virtually invisible. It was last used in 1980, fell into disrepair and was virtually forgotten. Joshua David and Robert Hammond discovered their mutual interest in the High Line and dedicated themselves to saving it–as a city park in the sky. What could be a more magical (and useful) transformation?
Recently I came across another example of art in an unexpected place — Japanese rice fields.
Farmers in rural villages in Japan, by carefully planting different colored rice, create monumental images of mythological figures or gigantic field murals.
These murals cover 45,000 sq yards of rice paddy fields in the village of Inakadate. Of course the designs are invisible from ground level, so viewers must climb to the top of the local village office to see the murals. The village started rice paddy art as a local revitalization project in 1993. Now it has spread to other villages. The warrior seen here is in the town of Yonezawa. Computers are used to plot the planting of four different colored rice varieties.
Talk about thinking outside the box!