John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The nature park will harbor a shambling behemoth, a fuzzy duck blind, and a smokey “Meat Church,” among other installations.
Austin’s Circle Acres is a wooded, marshy nature preserve built atop an old landfill and brownfield. For one week this fall, it also will be an offbeat outdoor museum, replete with sculptures, strange creatures, and a pop-up "church” that slings tasty barbecue.
The Field Constructs Design Competition invited architects and designers the world over to “attract interest and attention to a part of the city that may otherwise be perceived as peripheral, remote, or underutilized,” write the organizers. Judges have narrowed the field to 18 finalists, and plan to announce up to eight winners this month.
(Blake Smith, John Cunningham, Seth Brunner: New York)
Cloudfill is a three-part installation made from plastic bottles stuffed in bags. Pictured is a floating bridge planned for the park’s wetland area, which used to be a quarry. Each part of the installation references a different environmental problem, from deforestation to strip mining to microplastics in the ocean.
(Aptum Architecture: Syracuse)
Venture into the swampy shadows and you might bump into this mutant-horse thing. Built from a wooden frame and covered with latex, the sculpture reportedly “glows” and changes appearance through the day. According to Field Constructs: “Through the intertwining of skeleton and mutilated skin, a digitally enhanced structure and its biodegradable latex ornamentation dis-figures the form and, in turn, alludes to a new reading of ‘form meets nature’ as the grotesque, the uncanny, and the unexpected.”
(Daniel Gillen, Colby Suter, Gustav Fagerstrom: Beijing)
These freaky camel humps in the middle of a field are an educational exhibit about composting. Visitors scan QR codes or use on-site wi-fi to learn about the benefits of ecological food disposal. They can also throw scraps and water into pits in the sculpture and watch them slowly turn to dirt.
Duck Blind in Plain Site
(Jonathan Scelsa, John Paul Rysavy, Jennifer Birkeland, Isaac Stein, Nick Mitchell, Erin Wythoff: Brooklyn)
No, this fluffy ball is not a Katamari about to absorb a child. It’s a “duck blind” covered in grass that protects a surreal lacuna. “Duck Blind’s exterior, shrouded in camouflage, seeks to hide within its pastoral setting,” according to Field Constructs, “while its interior attempts to subvert the exterior’s camouflage with apertures and thresholds showcasing high chromatic interior claddings.” (If you do manage to lose a son or daughter touring the park, check this grassy hidey-fort first.)
Meat Church Field Kitchen
(Jordan Bartelt, Scrap Marshall: Los Angeles)
Austin’s reputation as a dreamland of greasy, grilled meats is echoed in this ephemeral smokehouse. The design riffs on a lone church standing in the Texas barrens, and its toothsome chow—prepared by seasoned grill-masters—is meant to be consumed with others, similar to a church picnic. But fear not Catholics, Jews, and Zoroastrians: all faiths are welcome at the “agnostic” kitchen. (Okay, maybe not vegetarians.)
(Goujon Design: Austin)
“In early 2015, a local, family-owned piñata store was razed to the ground by a pair of transplanted property developers in the city’s rapidly gentrifying East Austin neighborhoods,” according to Field Constructs. (The landlord behind the demolition later resigned from his company.) “The low-income and predominantly Hispanic neighborhood of Montopolis”—where the park is located—“will inevitably become another friction point between the development of a ‘new’ Austin and the preservation of ‘old’ Austin.” This installation seeks to spark related discussions; unknown is whether you can actually whack the piñatas with a bat.