On Decoration and Recreation

Jay Johnson -- It's Labor Day 2007, and we're thinking of heading to a local park for a barbecue. We'll put some thick chops on the grill, meet friends and neighbors, and enjoy the great weather and lush greenery.

Parks have often been the destination of choice for people who want to relax and recreate. I love the words recreate and recreation, don't you? To create something all over again, you might say. To have fun while creating something. To recharge your batteries.

Gaudi%20Benches%20Park%20Guell.jpgA few years ago, I joined my daughter Meredith and her traveling companion Amissa as they were hoofing it around Europe before getting serious about careers and adult responsibility. We met for Christmas week in Barcelona and had a wonderful time. Barcelona was the Spanish home of Antonio Gaudi, and if you don't know his work, it's worth researching. He believed that architecture and design should be profoundly related to nature, and one of his most delightful works is the Park Guell. His design for this urban park was to provide a fanciful return to nature, create a healthy environment, and provide an escape from the industrial atmosphere of the city.

A striking feature of Park Guell is its snakelike benches that flow in undulating curved shapes. The benches are decorated with mosaic tiles that jump out with color and modernist wit.

It's literally art you can sit down on.

In the over 200 home videos contained in my Design2Share Video Diary on YouTube, you will see examples where I have taken my video camera -- a sturdy palm-sized Radio Shack $99 camtastic special -- and visited parks and other public spaces. This week's Video Diary takes you to Grant's Tomb, of all places, in the Upper West Side neighborhood of Manhattan. My video doesn't feature the staid, classical monument that is the tomb itself, but instead focuses on the Gaudi-inspired undulating benches that encircle the grounds of the tomb. I was struct by how strikingly different the benches were compared to Grant's Tomb, but I was delighted that someone had been inspired enough by the Spanish master architect and designer to decorate a public space in such a fanciful way. Watch my New York City Tile Benches video, soaking up the public decoration in this unlikely location.

I now appreciate much more the design influences in our parks and other public spaces. Great design functions the same way in public as it does in your home -- it helps you recharge your batteries, it delights you, and it recreates your Self.

Seen any great public design lately? Please send me a post . . . .


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