Incorporating art into the landscape design

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When you’re enjoying the San Francisco Bay Area’s public outdoor spaces, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter some remarkable landscape art pieces. Large outdoor sculptures, mosaic art in the paving, wall murals, abstract art, modern art, and even traditional busts and statues all fit into the surrounding landscape design. At Gates and Associates, one of the most rewarding ways we’ve been able to add meaning to outdoor spaces is by incorporating art features whether collaborating with artists or designing the pieces in house. This is the story of a few works of art and the collaboration in which we’ve been privileged to participate in these beloved spaces.

Functional Landscape Art

During our front yard redesign, the goals included art and sustainability incorporated into our first impression. Given the site constraints of limited space for display, we worked with a local artist, Colin Selig to design a custom planter and showcase his sculptural benches. The upcycled propane tanks are turned into whimsical, durable and ecologically responsible sculptures and site furnishings.

From the start of the John Muir Medical Center Walnut Creek Campus Design it was imperative to include site planning functions of drop offs, tucked away places for reflection time and easy access for patients. The history of John Muir himself was tied in through multiple elements on the site from the entry fountain in the roundabout,

The River of Light and Mountain Range at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek is functional art as well as art that tells a story. The metal and glass mountains screen the Sharon Garden from the busy medical center entrance, while the River of Light footpath flows into the hospital from a massive granite water feature designed by Gates + Associates (include photo of fountain). The overall work, by artist Gordon Huether, refers to the local setting and the naturalist for whom the medical center is named.

We feel art encourages stay-value, educational value and dwell time.

Outdoor Art that Tells a Story

Gates + Associates was the landscape architect collaborating with public artists on the Rinconada Library in the City of Palo Alto. The library’s urban landscape design includes Brilliance, by Blessing Hancock and Joe O’Connell. These six interactive metal sculptures are located throughout the plaza between the library and the Palo Alto Art Center. The sculptures feature statements collected from the citizens of Palo Alto in a variety of languages reflecting the community’s cultural diversity. At night, viewers can change the lighting colors by touching the sculptures.

The City’s commitment to public art extends to Mitchell Park Library and Community Center, another project for which we were the landscape architects. The facility highlights a wide range of public art including Whimsy & Wise by Brad Oldham. Playful owl sculptures in two poses greet visitors to the library and act as security bollards. The artist was inspired by children entering the library who would see reflections of their wise and whimsical selves in the mirror-like surfaces of the modern outdoor art.

Statement Art in the Landscape

Another modern outdoor artwork at the Mitchell Park Library & Community Center is Arpeggio V, by Bruce Beasley. This granite arch is located at the Middlefield Road entrance to the facility. The granite from the sculpture is echoed in the architecture and landscape architecture throughout the site.

The water sculpture, Confluence by Michael Szabo, greets pedestrians and bicyclists on California Avenue near the Caltrain station in Palo Alto. In collaboration with the artist, Gates + Associates created the fountain basin, seatwalls, and granite seating that relates to the graceful work of art.

As landscape architects for Las Positas College in Livermore, Gates + Associates was able to introduce the College decision-makers to the work of Fletcher Benton. As a result, this beautiful corten sculpture has been incorporated into the plaza design of their new classroom building.

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