BMA's Charles W. Ireland Sculpture Garden Named
One of 10 Great Public Spaces in America
The Charles W. Ireland Sculpture Garden at the Birmingham Museum of Art was named today as one of the 10 Great Public Spaces in America for 2010.
The American Planning Association chose the garden as the first spot designated in the state of Alabama under its Great Places in America program. The sculpture garden, named for a long-time Museum patron, is the site of several significant sculptures, exhibitions, and events, including the annual Art On The Rocks concert series.
“We’re thrilled,” said Gail Andrews, director of the Birmingham Museum of Art. “Our sculpture garden is not only the legacy of great museum supporters, but also a very active, inviting space, an oasis which we’re happy to see serving visitors from all over the community and from all over the world.”
"As mayor it gives me enormous pleasure to see the sculpture garden at our Museum recognized by people outside the city as the great place we've always known it to be,” said Birmingham Mayor William A. Bell. “We're proud of the Ireland Sculpture Garden, which is an oasis in our downtown area, one of several designated green spaces - including our newly dedicated Railroad Reservation Park - which we feel really draw people into our city center and make them want to linger and return."
According to its press release, APA considers the Ireland Sculpture Garden as a place representing “the gold standard in terms of having a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement, and a vision for tomorrow.” The garden is home to sculptures by Auguste Rodin, Fernando Botero, Jacques Lipchitz, Beverly Pepper, and Sol LeWitt.
APA selected the 30,000 square foot BMA sculpture garden “for its unique plan and design that meld art with the natural landscape. The garden is recognized by APA for its multiple uses and accommodation of all types of visitors, including the visually impaired.”
The garden, co-designed by architect Edward Larrabee Barnes and environmental sculptor Elyn Zimmerman, was created during a $21 million renovation of the BMA in 1993. It contains three distinct spaces.
The Red Mountain Garden area features sculpture from the Museum’s permanent collection, including Blue Pools Courtyard, designed by artist Valerie Jaudon. Members of The Red Mountain Garden Club, which designed the original BMA garden in 1957, were instrumental in designing the landscaping for the current Red Mountain Garden and still help to maintain it.
In the center of the sculpture garden is a lower, sunken gallery providing space for activities and temporary exhibitions. Most recently, that gallery held Alabama artist Amy Pleasant’s installation Suspended. The upper plaza incorporates monumental sculpture including Lithos II, by Elyn Zimmerman, and provides space for hosting events including Art On The Rocks, which just ended its sixth season.
At the time of the sculpture garden’s creation, the downtown area was undergoing much reconstruction, including the former Woodrow Wilson Park (now Linn Park) across the street from the Museum. “The sculpture garden was a trend-setter in that its planning and creation encouraged the city of Birmingham and notable institutions throughout the city to re-evaluate their public spaces and to optimize their respective uses and appeal,” said Andrews. “This museum enhancement was an important catalyst for subsequent decisions made by other cultural institutions regarding expanding and locating downtown.”
"The Ireland Sculpture Garden, developed through the long-term efforts of the Red Mountain Garden Club, as well as through Museum planning committees and the vision of a team of landscape designers and architects, shows how successful public spaces can reflect collaboration and forethought,” Mayor Bell added. “It remains an excellent example of the way forward for future projects that respect their surroundings and impel pleasant interactions between people and public art."
Announcement of the 10 winners is set to coincide with the designation of October as National Community Planning Month. The Ireland Sculpture Garden was selected this year among other distinguished locations including Boston Common, as part of the Emerald Necklace in Boston; Fountain Square in Bowling Green, KY; Bryant Park in New York City, NY; Plaza Real in Boca Raton, FL; the Ferry Building in San Francisco, CA; Campus Martius in Detroit, MI; Percival Landing in Olympia, WA; Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, PA; and Main Plaza in San Antonio, TX.
The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization aimed at advancing the art, science, and activity of planning at the local, regional, state, and national levels.