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Olympic Sculpture Park

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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 beach1 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 States3 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 Gates4 The idea grew further during a discussion in 1996 between and Martha Wyckoff while stranded on a fly fishing trip in Mongolia due to a helicopter crash56 Wyckoff, being a trustee of the Trust for Public Land, soon after began an effort to identify possible locations for the park6

A $30 million gift from Mary and Jon Shirley established them as foundational donors6 As part of constructing the sculpture park, 57 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 efforts7

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 sculpture8


  • 1 Artworks
    • 11 Current
    • 12 Former
  • 2 Awards
  • 3 Public reception
  • 4 Criticism
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links



Bunyon's Chess Eagle Eye Benches I, II and III Father and Son Neukom Vivarium Seattle Cloud Cover
  • Bunyon's Chess 1965, Mark di Suvero9
  • Curve XXIV 1981, Ellsworth Kelly10
  • Eagle 1971, Alexander Calder11
  • Echo 2011, Jaume Plensa12
  • Eye Benches I, II and III 1996, Louise Bourgeois131415
  • Father and Son 2004–2006, Louise Bourgeois16
  • Love & Loss 2005, Roy McMakin17
  • Mary's Invitation: A Place to Regard Beauty 2014, Ginny Ruffnercitation needed
  • Neukom Vivarium 2006, Mark Dion18
  • Perre's Ventaglio III 1967, Beverly Pepper19
  • Persephone Unbound 1965, Beverly Pepper20
  • Schubert Sonata 1992, Mark di Suvero21
  • Seattle Cloud Cover 2006, Teresita Fernández22
  • Sky Landscape I 1983, Louise Nevelson23
  • Split 2003, Roxy Paine24
  • Stinger 1999, Tony Smith25
  • Two Plane Vertical Horizontal Variation III 1973, George Rickeycitation needed
  • Untitled 2004–2007, Roy McMakin26
  • Wake 2004, Richard Serra27
  • Wandering Rocks 1967, Tony Smith28


  • Riviera 1971–1974 by Anthony Caro29
  • Typewriter Eraser, Scale X29


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
  • ID 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 receptionedit

Prior to and during the park’s opening in 2007, the project received positive reviews from many regional and national press sources,373839404142434445 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" policy4849 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 Allen50 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 death53 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://wwwnytimescom/2007/01/14/arts/design/14sheehtmlpagewanted=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://oldseattletimescom/html/sculpturepark/2003518555_sculptureblurbs140html
  30. ^ "AIA Seattle Honors 2007" American Institute of Architects 2007-04-13 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 Retrieved 2013-07-31 
  34. ^ "2008 American Architecture Awards" The Chicago Athenaeum 2008 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://travelnationalgeographiccom/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 linksedit

  • Seattle portal
  • Official website
  • Seattle Parks Department
  • Olympic Sculpture Park 360 Virtual Tour
  • Presentation of the park's final design at arcspacecom
  • Pictorial Journal A neighbor's unofficial chronicle of the construction

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