In cities along the Rust Belt, the vacant lot has become a symbol of post-industrial decay. The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, located in the Grand Center arts district in St. Louis, Missouri, launched the PXSTL Design Project in March inviting artists, designers, and architects to re-imagine an empty lot across the street from its Tadao Ando-designed, concrete-and-glass home. The competition, conceived in partnership with the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University, yielded 100 nominations and 60 applicants from the Foundation’s initial request for qualifications. Today the Foundation has announced the three finalists: New York-based studio Freecell Architecture; artist Oscar Tuazon; and San Francisco-based interdisciplinary design studio Rebar.
“A big goal of this project is to think of a vacant lot not as an eyesore but as an opportunity,” Said Kristina Van Dyke, the director of the Pulitzer Foundation. “This is something that we’re very rich in in St. Louis.”
The Foundation’s RFQ asked applicants to provide packages consisting of 15 images, bios or resumes, and a letter indicating reasons for interest in this project. The winner of the competition will receive a $50,000 project budget and a $10,000 honorarium to create a temporary, built-environment that engages the public.
“The idea is not to replicate what we already do [at the Foundation], but to build and expand it. And make us think about our program in a different way,” said Van Dyke.
Each of the three finalists has demonstrated experience with large-scale public projects from temporary art installations to landscape design commissions. Van Dyke cited Rebar’s use of “unexpected and devalued materials” as one of the approaches that stood out in their application, while it was Freecell’s “rigorous process of observation about how people experience space” that excited them. Tuazon is the only artist of the group, but is no stranger to making dynamic public works. The panelists were particularly impressed by his recent pieces for Brooklyn Bridge Park that succeeded in “revealing something instead of introducing something alien to the park.”
This project is the first of its kind for the Foundation. Van Dyke and her colleagues hope it will draw attention to the burgeoning arts community in Grand Center, and, on a grander scale, explore and demonstrate how temporary art installations, or “interventions,” can help transform communities and cities.
“One of the larger goals of Pulitzer’s design initiative is to think about how we can be participants in educating people about the principals of design, about the tools that are at their disposal, and about the untapped resources in St. Louis. All this could move towards affecting change in the city,” said Van Dyke.
In the next month, the finalists will hone their ideas to present to the PXSTL panel. The winning proposal will be announced on August 9, and the project is expected to be installed and open to the public by summer/fall 2014.