Sunday, August 18, 2013

What is Metro Parks thinking? (UPDATED)

In the past few weeks a tall metal object with the words "On Air" (pictured above) was constructed at Morgan Park near the playground and in front of the community center. It is obviously an homage to Nashville's broadcast past.

But is it meant to be a climbable jungle gym for kids?

If so, I'm not sure what the design wizards at Metro Parks was thinking. Unlike the playground equipment, which is set on top of a cushioned, rubberized surface that softens falls, the radio tower (or microphone?) is set in cement. And look closely at yellow electric bolts attached to the upper rings. The sharpened metal plates are exposed. I could very easily see a climber horribly impaled on them after a misstep.

This strikes me as one huge design fail.

UPDATE: thanks to a tip in the comments below I searched the Metro Arts website and discovered that this sharp-pronged metal tower is actually a bike rack that Metro Arts (managed by Jennifer Cole, wife of former CM Erik Cole) commissioned in 2010. That explains the concrete pad it is sitting on. Now, how are they going to keep the little tykes who frequent the community center and Morgan Park playground from climbing "Steelskin Studio On Air" and either falling on hard concrete or getting speared on those cutlass-like steel bolts atop the pylon? Is public art in a public park really "public" if it is not kid-friendly? How could Metro Parks approve installation of this design? Why couldn't Morgan Park get safer public art, like the "handlebar mustache bike rack"?

UPDATE: Metro Arts responded to questions raised about the new Morgan Park bike rack on Twitter.

Of course, no one was impugning their program. In fact, if they had bothered to look back in the Enclave archives, Metro Arts officials would have seen that I am largely supportive of the program of public art, especially against the demagoguery of conservatives.

But this post is plainly not an attack on their program. It merely questions whether installing a tall monkeybars-like feature with hazardous sheet metal elements near a playground is a wise practice, even under the auspices of "art".

One more thing. I think it is awesome that Metro wants to encourage more kids to bike. The problem is: how does a sculpture that does not even come across as a bike rack on first impression to average people encourage more kids to bike?


  1. This was probably done by the Arts Commission which seems to be on a mission to cram as much crappy( you know-broken roller coaster) "art" downtown as possible while leaving the rest of the city untouched.
    Although in fairness, Shelby Bottoms has TWO "arts" a few feet from each other--still waiting for "art" in Madison, Antioch, Bellshire, Inglewood, Hermitage, Bordeaux.......

  2. Kids will be kids. I wouldn't be too worried about someone climbing that, unless you worry about kids climging everything else - like trees.

    Now, it is ugly. Reminds me of this Micky statue.

    McCabe Community Center/Golf Course has some public art. It resembles a plane propeller, harkening back to McCabe's days as a airfield. It's not as garish as this; don't think you could climb it unless really motivated.

  3. Okay, fine. Kids will climb anything, and I guess hypothetically they could always be impaled by trees. But, with Metro already losing money in avoidable lawsuits (like the ones in which sewage grates face the wrong way for bicyclists), why court danger so haphazardly? This seems like a no brainer: avoid welding steel fangs to public art that kids are going to climb.

  4. Well, It is a bike rack. And did you read the rfp? Function was an important part of the design. Now, they could have simply put in a couple of stainless steel or powdercoated yolks to attach bikes to but they opted for something visually interesting. I applaude that. Really should we rubber dip and wrap foam around everything? I think the piece is kinda cool. For the sake of transparency: I applied for this project and my design wasn't chosen. I have completed other projects of similar function and usually the artist actually makes the sculpture/bike rack. I know the fabrication of these was contracted out. I see the designs reference to Nashville's rich broadcasting history. the "fangs" may look dangerous but im sure they are probably 1/4" sheet. not like you can run your finger over them and cut yourself. I'm a bit all over on those points but my verdict. I like it.