Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham has been the catalyst for numerous private investments in the surrounding area. This morning at Design Review Committee, plans for a new public space adjacent to the park were approved: the Powell Avenue Steam Plant Plaza (image above is the SW corner of the plaza looking NE from First Avenue South and 18th Street). This project will join Railroad Park and Rotary Trail as the latest major investment in public green space in the CBD.
This high-caliber, thoughtful design was praised by the Committee as complementing Railroad Park without mimicking it; its design language and planting palette will be unique. The landscape architect is Nelson Byrd Woltz, a firm with offices in Virginia and New York which has worked on projects around the world. Notably, they are currently designing the public square in New York City’s massive Hudson Yards development underway on the West Side of Manhattan.
The image above shows a birds-eye of the planned plaza with Railroad Park to the west in the lower left corner, and the Steam Plant directly north. Alabama Power commissioned this project and hopes to pull permits for the first demolition phase within a few weeks. The Steam Plant itself–recently decommissioned– is still in the design phase, with nothing definite to announce yet. But if the historic structure receives the same creativity and care as the plaza, we’re excited about the possibilities.
Powell Avenue itself has already been vacated at this location to allow unimpeded pedestrian (and bicycle!) access through the plaza to the steam plant; the image above shows the reflecting pools that span the plaza’s north-south axis from First Avenue to the Steam Plant. Besides space for strolling and gathering, there will be a dedicated area for food trucks. [As a side note, some will remember this block being the subject of the Community Foundation’s Prize 2 the Future contest.]
Hats off to Alabama Power for conceiving this huge civic amenity–we’ll eagerly await more news on the Steam Plant itself!
[thanks to Alabama Power and Nelson Byrd Woltz for the images]
We like the logo
At Design Review this morning, KPS Group presented a design for a new outdoor seating balcony for the Birmingham Museum of Art‘s restaurant, Oscar’s. While it’s exciting that this newly branded restaurant is opening up to the outdoors (facing the landscaped walk between the museum and Boutwell Auditorium), it is less exciting that–for various reasons–the Museum has not been able to move forward with expansion, either onto the adjacent Boutwell site or otherwise. Our amazing collection, considered one of the finest in the country and perhaps the best in the southeast, deserves better.
Imagine Boutwell–or perhaps the Alabama Power Steam Plant facing the Railroad Park–becoming our own version of the Geffen Contemporary in downtown Los Angeles (below), really putting Birmingham on the map for contemporary art. The soaring space, flexible layout, and “un-museum” feel would be exhilarating. Not to mention the ability to spawn other development nearby, all while increasing our tourist base and allowing more of our collection to be shown.
Murakami needs high ceilings
Or, think of the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, where an old factory building was transformed into a cutting edge exhibition, performance, and gallery space, with artists-in-residence brought in from around the world. We looked at this for a model at our Phoenix Building development, but we’re still searching for a way to bring this sort of vibe to Birmingham. The picture below proves that yes, appreciation of contemporary art can begin at a very young age.
Training the eye
Our Museum is City-owned and open to the public at no cost–a rarity in this country. Despite the economic woes of both the private and public sector right now, here’s hoping that in the near future we’ll have a cutting-edge expansion of this institution that’s so essential to the City’s culture.
It can be done here too
[thanks to Matt Niemi for the Mattress Factory kid; beastandbean for the Murakami exhibit at Geffen; and Mattress Factory for the exterior shot]