A Clearing in the Streets

A temporary landscape designed by Julie Farris and Sarah Wayland-Smith entitled A Clearing in the Streets  was an installation commissioned by the Public Art Fund. A ten-sided plywood structure located in Collect Pond Park housed a meadow, fifteen feet in diameter, offset by a panoramic interior mural of a vast blue sky. Eight-inch gaps spaced throughout the structure permit controlled visual access to the enclosed landscape, exaggerating the disjunction between the natural ecology growing inside and the architecturally defined exterior. The structure and limited viewing opportunities magnifying the natural cyclical processes of the ecology that, over a four-month period, evolved from seeds and seedlings to a lush meadow of flowering native plants and grasses.

The built environment of New York City has almost completely effaced the opportunities for natural systems to exist. Collect Pond Park was once a 60-foot-deep freshwater pond; misused and polluted in the 19th century, the pond had to be drained. A Clearing in the Streets allows nature to reclaim a small part of the current public plaza, carving out a space to reinsert native plantings. The meadow will be in a constant state of transformation, parallel to the flux and endless change of the City itself. This literal ‘work in progress’ invites the public to return to the installation and witness its evolution.