6th Streets Arts Alley | LAA Office
Name: 6th Streets Arts Alley
Location: Columbus, Indiana
Type: Urban Activation
Size: 10,000 sf
Client: Columbus Area Arts Council
Funding & Supporters: Columbus Indiana Visitors Center, City of Columbus, Indiana Arts Commission Cultural District program, CREA & First Financial Bark, Heritage Fund – The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, IU Presidential Arts and Humanities Program, IU Center for Rural Engagement and ServeDesign Center, and by individual contributions from the community.
Design: LAA Office
Design Team: Lulu Loquidis Martinez, PLA, ASLA (co-founder), Daniel Luis Martinez, NOMA (co-founder), Jess Novitski, Priscilla Rocha
Odd Fellows Mural: Nick Abstract
Photography: Hadley Fruits
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LAA Office, a Columbus, Indiana-based multi-disciplinary design studio, has transformed 6th Street in downtown Columbus into a burgeoning arts district that provides a flexible space for relaxation, social gathering, and events. Working with the Columbus Area Arts Council, LAA Office initiated a series of urban interventions including public seating, a shade structure, and public artworks designed and/or curated by the emerging studio. Called 6th Street Arts Alley, the project provides a strong visual identity for the city while also creating an engaging space that community members can enjoy in a variety of ways. A public opening will take place on Thursday, October 28, 2021 from 5-7pm EST. 6th Street is home to a burgeoning arts and design scene with several community organizations, creative businesses, and studios concentrated within a one block radius. This urban activation project serves both to connect creative organizations to one another, as well as reinvigorate undervalued spaces between buildings in Columbus, a city that is historically known for its significant works of architecture, art, and landscape.
© Hadley Fruits
This project is the second intervention on 6th Street by the emerging design practice. The first, Learning Patterns, is a large-scale mural derived from a smaller artwork exhibited at the 411 Gallery on 6th Street in 2019. The black and white mural depicts playful, graphic interpretations of tables, book stacks, and desks that reinterpret historic drawings used for organizing furniture at the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library in Columbus.
The 2019 mural and related exhibition triggered the idea that 6th Street could become a public space dedicated to the arts. Now with the culmination of the arts alley project, LAA Office has effectively synthesized public space and public art to make a new strategy for urbanization, developing a lexicon of design strategies based on the idea that public art is uniquely positioned to repair urban fabric.
In the most recent phase of the 6th Street revitalization, LAA Office introduced a swath of public space over fragmented parts of the city, so that the boundary of the patchwork produces a new bond between otherwise disconnected elements.The firm’s work includes 10,000 square feet of street improvements and the design of an extensive ground mural installed by LAA Office along with student and community volunteers, as well as the curation of a new mural on the south façade of the historic Odd Fellows building by artist Nick Abstract. A custom suite of modular furniture designed by LAA Office, moveable planters by Anova Furnishings, and an innovative shade and lighting canopy also accompany the project, creating a holistic design that exists on three planes: ground, vertical, and overhead.
“The idea of pulling apart three distinct planes (ground, vertical, and overhead) as canvases for artistic intervention is deeply related to our understanding of 6th Street as an outdoor room. The existing urban condition already creates an intimate space in the city. Our goal was to simply make those boundaries more explicit and vibrant through site-specific artworks,” says LAA Office Co-founder Daniel Luis Martinez.
For example, the geometric asphalt mural in bold shades of blue, yellow, white, and grey, overlaid with the modular seating creates a patchwork on the ground that links various nonprofit organizations and art programs along the street, including the Columbus Area Arts Council (CAAC), the 411 Gallery, Heritage Fund Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, and the Landmark Columbus Foundation. The mural itself occupies a former parking space in front of the CAAC offices, creating a small plaza on the street where the community can gather. The powder-coated aluminum benches, painted in vibrant shades of yellow, grey, and white are abstracted from the CAAC’s logo and add a different scale to the banded rhythm of the ground mural. The new mural for the historic Odd Fellows building by Indianapolis-based artist Nick Abstract further emphasizes the idea of the street as an outdoor museum.
For the second phase of the project, beginning in November 2021, LAA Office will be developing the design of a custom shade and lighting canopy to further signal to pedestrians that 6th Street is a unique gathering space dedicated to the arts.
Says LAA Office Co-founder Lulu Loquidis, “One central concept that has emerged in our recent work, including 6th Street, is the notion that public art has an enormous potential to mend the frayed urban fabric of cities. We believe that public art has the potential to generate urban design in and of itself by creating spaces for people to gather or by directly changing the physical characteristics of the city. We see ourselves as part of a generation of artists and designers who are actively reclaiming alleyways, parking lots, and streets as vital spaces that can contribute to the social life of the city.”