In 1986, the stairwell in this parking garage that connected the rooftop parking deck with the shopping streets alongside the garage was permanently locked. The problem, according to the St. Helens Reporter, the local newspaper, was "continued vandalism and anti-social behaviour."
Twenty years later, in 2006, the new staircase shown above was opened, spiraling around a polished steel "millennium needle" standing 20 meters high. The Reporter called it a "pole." The project, according to the Reporter, added an expensive "feature" of questionable value to the downtown area.
Downtown St. Helens, in the north of England east of Liverpool, hadn't had much in the way of expensive features for many years. A bustling mining and manufacturing center in the nineteenth century, it was rusting away of late, with only one factory remaining and a population of about 100,000. The whole region was depressed.
Google "St. Helens needle" and you come up with lots of stories about drug use and street crime, including one about a four-year-old child who had to go to the hospital after stepping on a hypodermic needle on her way home from the park.
Nevertheless, St. Helens city fathers put money into sprucing up the central shopping district, and some gentrification did in fact ensue. Several high-end restaurants moved into empty storefronts near the train station.
And eventually, there was pressure to reconnect the old parking garage more conveniently to the new "George Street Quarter." The needle was the result.
Like any good needle, it has a hole–many piercings, in fact, for lighting up near the point. But a real needle has its hole near the blunt end. This one is what it is.
For whatever it's worth, we note that this is actually the second Good Morning post about parking garages and European urban renewal. It happened in Skopje. And now in St. Helens.
Right outside Rosenbad, the prime minister's chancery in central Stockholm, sits this homeless woman with the face of a fox, huddled in a blanket, with a baby animal, perhaps a fox cub, perhaps a teddy bear, in her lap.
The sculpture, a permanent installation on the granite sidewalk, is from artist Laura Ford's series Rag and Bone. In 2009, the city's newspaper by and for homeless people, known as Situation Sthlm, conducted a poll on where to put the statue; the winning location was this very public and political site.
The fox also has a single boot in her lap, into which passers by frequently drop euros. People who are uncertain about dontating to living, breathing homeless people somehow feel that leaving money for a bronze fox is a good thing to do. That's the world we live in.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the area around the northern Japanese city of Towada was designated as imperial ranchland, devoted to raising horses for the samurai cavalry.
The most famous of these horses was probably First Frost, which Emperor Hirohito rode for propaganda purposes during World War II. The U.S. Navy claimed to confiscate First Frost but actually left it with Hirorhito's personal property. Admiral "Bull" Halsey had promised to ride Hirorhito's horse when the Americans arrived in Tokyo, so another all-white horse was substituted for a ceremonial ride through town, for propaganda purposes.
Towada recalls its heritage with bronze horses spilling out onto a main street designated officially as Government Administration Road, nicknamed Horse Road. There are also 151 cherry trees along the road.
Drawings that can be appreciated only by looking at them in a curved mirror have been around for hundreds of years, but three-dimensional sculpture that reveals itself only in a curved mirror is brand new, perhaps thirty or forty years old. It can't be done without modern computer power, calculating in three dimensions the projection in space of each point on the mirrored surface and generating the "solution" to the digital algorithms via a 3-D printer.
There was often a practical reason for many of the old 2-D mirror drawings; they allowed the artist to ncorporate details into his work that were too racy or politically incorrect for a general audience but of considerable interest to those in the know, who might enjoy them by setting a polished cylinder in front of the painting.
The purpose of 3-D sculpture, on the other hand, such as these works by South African artist and software engineer Jonty Hurwitz, is less utilitarian, more a matter of artistic virtuosity. It's a cool thing that's really, really hard to do, but Hurwitz can pull it off.
Ron Baron's "Lost and Found," bronze luggage and seating, was installed in 2010 in a plaza outside a new Long Island Railroad station in Hempstead, New York.
The twentieth-century stone carvers who worked on the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., enriched the building with their own personal flourishes. The gargoyle above, for example, is a self-portrait with tools by carver Roger Morigi.
As the project neared completion in the 1980s, National Geographic World sponsored a competition for children to design the final few embellishments. Below is the Darth Vader grotesque, proposed for the competition by Christopher Rader of Kearney, Nebraska; it was sculpted by Jay Hall Carpenter and carved from limestone by Patrick Plunkett. Other sculptures from the contest include a raccoon, a girl with pigtails and braces, and a man with large teeth and an umbrella.