Olympic Sculpture Park

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Olympic Sculpture Park
Olympic Sculpture Park from Space Needle - Seattle.JPG
The park as viewed from the Space Needle
LocationSeattle, Washington
Coordinates47°36′59″N 122°21′19″W / 47.61639°N 122.35528°W / 47.61639; -122.35528Coordinates: 47°36′59″N 122°21′19″W / 47.61639°N 122.35528°W / 47.61639; -122.35528
Area8.5 acres (3.4 ha)
FounderMary and Jon Shirley
Operated bySeattle Parks and Recreation
OpenJanuary 20, 2007

The Olympic Sculpture Park, created and operated by the Seattle Art Museum, is a park, free and open to the public, in Seattle, Washington that opened on January 20, 2007. The park consists of a 9-acre (36,000 m2) outdoor sculpture museum and beach.[1] The park's lead designer was Weiss/Manfredi Architects,[2] who collaborated with Charles Anderson Landscape Architecture, Magnusson Klemencic Associates and other consultants. It is situated at the northern end of the Seattle seawall and the southern end of Myrtle Edwards Park. The former industrial site was occupied by the oil and gas corporation Unocal until the 1970s and subsequently became a contaminated brownfield before the Seattle Art Museum proposed to transform the area into one of the only green spaces in Downtown Seattle.

As a free-admission outdoor sculpture park with both permanent and visiting installations, it is a unique institution in the United States.[3] The idea of green space for large, monumental sculpture in Seattle was first discussed between Virginia and Bagley Wright, Mary and Jon Shirley (former president of Microsoft and Chairman of the Seattle Art Museum Board of Directors), and Seattle Art Museum director (and wife of William Gates Sr.) Mimi Gardner Gates.[4] The idea grew further during a discussion in 1996 between Robert Measures and Martha Wyckoff while stranded on a fly fishing trip in Mongolia due to a helicopter crash.[5][6] Wyckoff, being a trustee of the Trust for Public Land, soon after began an effort to identify possible locations for the park.[6]

A $30 million gift from Mary and Jon Shirley established them as foundational donors.[6] As part of constructing the sculpture park, 5.7 million dollars were spent transforming 1,000 feet (300 m) of the seawall and underwater shoreline inside Myrtle Edwards park. A three level underwater slope was built with 50,000 tonnes of riprap. The first level of the slope is large rocks to break up waves. The second is a flat "bench" level to recreate an intertidal zone. The lower level is covered with smaller rocks designed to attract sealife and large kelp. It is hoped that this recreated strand will help revitalise juvenile salmon from the Duwamish River and serve as a test for future efforts.[7]

Maintenance of the sculptures has been an ongoing issue. The environment near a large salt water body has been corrosive to pieces like Bunyon's Chess, made primarily of exposed wood and metal. Tall painted pieces such as Eagle need to be watched for damage from birds and their waste. Maintenance of these large structures is expensive, requiring scaffolding or boom lifts. The paint on Eagle is also easily damaged by the mechanical clipping of grass near the base of its installation, requiring the gardeners to use scissors instead of a lawn mower near the sculpture.[8]





The park has received numerous awards for its design, engineering and environmental restoration.

  • Architecture Magazine, Progressive Architecture Award
  • Museum of Modern Art, selected for the exhibition Groundswell - Constructing the Contemporary Landscape
  • American Institute of Architects, Honor Awards for Washington Architecture
  • American Institute of Architects, Seattle Chapter, the Allied Organization Award[30]
  • American Institute of Architects, New York Chapter, Design Awards: Architecture Honor Award[31]
  • American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), Professional Awards: General Design Honor Award (Lead Designer: Weiss/Manfredi, Landscape Architect: Charles Anderson Landscape Architecture)[32]
  • American Institute of Architects, New York State Chapter, Excellence in Design Award
  • Cascade Land Conservancy, New Directions for Livable Communities Award
  • Harvard University Graduate School of Design's Veronica Rudge Green Prize in Urban Design
  • Seattle Design Commission, Design Excellence Award
  • World Architecture Festival Nature Category Award[33]
  • The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design American Architecture Award[34]
  • The EDRA/Places Design Award in cooperation with Metropolis magazine
  • I.D. Magazine Annual Design Review
  • Travel + Leisure Design Award for best cultural space[35]
  • American Shore and Beach Preservation Association, Top Restored Beach Award[36]
  • American Council of Engineering Companies, Engineering Excellence Award
  • American Institute of Architects, Institute Honor Awards for Architecture
  • Puget Sound Regional Council, 2008 VISION 2020 Awards

Public reception[edit]

Prior to and during the park’s opening in 2007, the project received positive reviews from many regional and national press sources,[37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45] and the Olympic Sculpture Park has now become an icon for Seattle. Frommer’s guide calls it “the best thing to happen to Seattle in years.”[46]


Before the construction of the Olympic Sculpture Park began, there was substantial criticism in the community that the new park would result in the complete shutdown of the Waterfront Streetcar, a fixture of the Seattle waterfront since 1982, because of the park's needed demolition of the streetcar's maintenance and storage facility. The storage and maintenance building was located on a portion of the park's proposed site, and the new park was not designed to either incorporate the existing building or construct a replacement facility. As a result, the streetcar "carbarn" was demolished and the line shut down in November 2005, despite an offer by the staff of the Waterfront Streetcar to modify the carbarn into a sculpture to fit into the park, the route being named, by National Geographic Society, as one of the 10 Great Streetcar routes,[47] and its great popularity with tourists and locals. A new facility has been proposed to be built in Pioneer Square to allow the route to reopen in the future. As of 2013, King County Metro, and City of Seattle fail to implement a plan for said new carbarn.

As soon as the park opened it was also criticized by the public for two policies that seemed to conflict with the easy public accessibility of an open-air museum: "Don't Touch" and "Limited Photography". The park hired security officers to enforce these rules.

On its weekend opening, both major local papers, the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran articles about the museum's "Don't Touch" policy.[48][49] The policy was instituted by Chief Conservator Nicholas Dorman to protect the pieces from damage, not just from scratching and vandalism, but long-term changes caused by oils left by human contact. The largest and one of the most accessible pieces, Wake by Richard Serra, has a delicate patina of rust that could be protected by a coating but has not because it conflicts with the museum's ideal to present and preserve the piece in its purest form.

One of the park's prominent pieces, Typewriter Eraser, Scale X by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, is on three-year loan from its owner, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.[50] Unlike the other sculptures in the park, there was initially a posted sign indicating that the public does not have permission to photograph this sculpture,[51] in spite of its current position alongside Elliott Avenue, a major street running through the park. After some criticism, the prohibition was lifted, with a Seattle Art Museum spokesperson claiming it was "a misinterpretation of the loan agreement".[52] The text prohibiting photography was subsequently covered up with masking tape.

Much of the sculpture comes from local collections or were specifically commissioned for the park. Some of the donated pieces have been referred to as the "equivalent of an unwanted birthday present left on the curb for charity." By commissioning sculptures, the park has been criticized for placing art that does not have "staying power" by artists who have not proven their worth. The piece Stinger, ostensibly by artist Tony Smith, has caused debate among artists and critics because it was created twenty years after his death.[53] In addition, a few undisclosed owners of a select sculptures have stated that they, in fact, had no desire to keep their sculptures, and use the park simply as a tax write-off.


  1. ^ "Seattle Parks Department official site". City of Seattle. 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  2. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/14/arts/design/14shee.html?pagewanted=1&n=Top/News/Business/Companies/Washington%20Mutual%20Inc.&_r=0
  3. ^ Sheila Farr, Seattle Times art critic (July 25, 2006). ""There's nothing else like this in the country" for outdoor art, says artist". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-01-22.
  4. ^ Corrin, Lisa Graziose; Gates, Mimi Gardner (2007). Olympic Sculpture Park. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum. pp. 10–12. ISBN 0932216579 – via Book.
  5. ^ Regina Hackett (March 29, 2005). "Mimi Gates, Seattle Art Museum's director, doesn't shy away from a challenge". Seattle Post Intelligencer. Retrieved 2007-11-01.[dead link]
  6. ^ a b c Gardner Gates, Mimi (207). Olympic Sculpture Park. Seattle Art Museum. pp. 10–12, 63. ISBN 3-540-63293-X.
  7. ^ Seattle Times Research with the Seattle Art Museum (15 January 2007). "The seawall: Changing the landscape under water". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-01-30.
  8. ^ Stuart Eskenazi (January 10, 2008). "Art at Sculpture Park is a touchy subject". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2008-03-04.
  9. ^ "Bunyon's Chess". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved August 16, 2016.
  10. ^ "Curve XXIV". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved August 16, 2016.
  11. ^ "The Eagle". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  12. ^ "Echo". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  13. ^ "Eye Benches I". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  14. ^ "Eye Benches II". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  15. ^ "Eye Benches III". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  16. ^ "Father and Son". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  17. ^ "Love & Loss". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  18. ^ "Neukom Vivarium". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  19. ^ "Perre's Ventaglio III". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  20. ^ "Persephone Unbound". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  21. ^ "Schubert Sonata". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  22. ^ "Seattle Cloud Cover". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  23. ^ "Sky Landscape I". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  24. ^ "Split". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  25. ^ "Stinger". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  26. ^ "Untitled". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  27. ^ "Wake". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  28. ^ "Wandering Rocks". Seattle Art Museum. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  29. ^ a b http://old.seattletimes.com/html/sculpturepark/2003518555_sculptureblurbs140.html
  30. ^ "AIA Seattle Honors 2007". American Institute of Architects. 2007-04-13. Archived from the original on 2014-03-17. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  31. ^ "American Institute of Architects New York Chapter Announced 2007 Design Awards" (PDF). American Institute of Architects. 2007-02-13. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  32. ^ "ASLA 2007 Professional Awards". American Society of Landscape Architects. 2007. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  33. ^ "Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle Art Museum". World Buildings Directory. 2008. Archived from the original on 2014-12-17. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  34. ^ "2008 American Architecture Awards". The Chicago Athenaeum. 2008. Archived from the original on 2013-06-28. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  35. ^ Barr, Luke; Bloom, Laura; Lombardo, Mimi (March 2008). "T+L Design Awards 2008". Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  36. ^ "ASBPA Announces 2008 Winners of Best Resorted Beaches" (PDF). American Shore and Beach Preservation Association. 2008-05-18. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  37. ^ "Olympic Sculpture Park Guide". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  38. ^ Smith, Valerie (September 2006). "Take Back The Site: Valerie Smith on the Olympic Sculpture Park". ArtForum. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  39. ^ "Stunning sculpture park could redefine waterfront". Seattle Times. 2007-01-14. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  40. ^ Sheets, Hilarie (2007-01-14). "Where money's no object, space is no problem". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  41. ^ Verhovek, Sam (2007-01-15). "Transformed by a creative use of space". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  42. ^ "On the waterfront: Money and vision give Seattle a bold new vista". International Herald Tribune. 2007-01-16.
  43. ^ "Seattle trying to woo salmon back downtown". Seattle Times. 2007-01-16. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  44. ^ Lacayo, Richard (2007-01-18). "Walk on the Wild Side". Time. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  45. ^ Gantebein, Douglas (2007-01-31). "From toxic wasteland to public garden with view". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  46. ^ "Frommer's destination guide-Seattle". Frommer's. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  47. ^ http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/top-10/trolley-rides/
  48. ^ Danny Westneat, Seattle Times (31 January 2007). "Getting touchy about art". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-01-31.
  49. ^ Regina Hackett, Seattle PI Art Critic (27 January 2007). "Olympic Sculpture Park: It's not a hands-on experience". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
  50. ^ Percy Allen (6 July 2006). "Allen loans massive "Eraser"". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-01-22.
  51. ^ Jen Graves (19 January 2007). "The Stranger Arrested". Slog (The Stranger's blog). Retrieved 2007-01-22.
  52. ^ Jen Graves (22 January 2007). "Sculpture Park Hangover". Slog (The Stranger's blog). Retrieved 2007-02-19.
  53. ^ Sheila Farr, Seattle Times art critic (24 January 2007). "A critic's-eye view of the new Olympic Sculpture Park". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-01-30.

External links[edit]