Skip directly to content

Urban Acupuncture in Montgomery, Alabama

Mobile Studio for Montgomery Public Art

Landscape Architecture Graduate Students Partner With City of Montgomery, Alabama  to explore opportunities for urban revitatlization and regeneration.

Auburn University’s Master of Landscape Architecture graduate students and Prof. J. Zanzot’s Mobile Studio recently collaborated with the City of Montgomery Public Art Commission, and City of Montgomery Department of Development to explore fourteen sites across the city as opportunities for investments in public art and urban regeneration. Key locations in the downtown core and transitional sites in the adjacent historic neighborhoods of Centennial Hill and Five Points have become catalysts not only for neighborhood revitalization, but also a new network of civic infrastructure.

Grant funding from the Alabama Council of the Arts is supporting a filmic publication of the work in the Spring semester. Additionally Mobile Studio has been commissioned to produce a Strategic Plan for Public Art in the City of Montgomery for the Public Art Commission. Given the significance of the imminent 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Voter’s Rights March this March, and the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 2016, the city is poised to rewrite its own history once again on the streets of the capitol of Alabama.

While Montgomery’s Alley district downtown, Train Depot, Biscuit Stadium, and Riverwalk have attracted positive growth and new development in the past several years, the capitol city still suffers the pains of urban renewal-era infrastructure; freeways and mega parking lots that have compromised the integrity, human scale, and emotional ecosystem of the neighborhoods in which they were built. Further, because these decisions intentionally fractured the African American communities of both Centennial Hill and West Montgomery, new visions are needed that are sensitive to a legacy of hollow promises.

Landscape acupuncture became the metaphor for strategic insertions in the living tissue of the city that promote healing, new economies, and vital public places through rippling impact beyond the discreet site, via a network of connected dynamic systems. The studio asked the question how can public art, or the art of urban regeneration, be catalytic in the transformation of these places. Which capacity building processes can design engender? How can novel ecologies and new emergent public spaces create new opportunities for strangers to meet, for kingfisher to soar, for the city to come alive again safely, celebrating an aesthetics of equity.

Using the Mobile Studio methodology of immersive engagement and intensive listening, drawing, filming and building in the field, students marked and measured the city with bamboo poles and the trademark portable drawing studio. These fourteen talented international landscape architecture students hosted pop-up evening events and stealthy industrial riverfront investigations, exploring uncharted potentials for future civic life. Final drawings for diverse hybrid new public spaces, alive with music, local cuisine, multi mural media, and living sculpture were presented at City Hall to government officials, Art Commission members and citizen alike. All were received with great enthusiasm, and several will be carried forward in the years to come: stay tuned!