One of the most direct and common ways of expressing artistic ideas is through site-specific public art installations on the terrain of shared community spaces. Public installation art is an effective way of grabbing attention, simultaneously showing a visible social message. Such artworks invite the audience to take a closer look and participate in order to decipher the meaning of work. Many cities all over the globe have bespoke art installations woven into their urban fabric and cultural memory.

Bospolder Fox by Florentijn Hofman (ph: Frank Hanswijk; also header image)

In the city of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman has introduced a monumental ‘Bospolder Fox’ as a part of a competition to design an artistic contribution to the dense traffic artery. The artwork comprises a 16-meter-long fox gripping a plastic bag in its jaws that towers above a congested intersection which separates the neighborhoods of Bospolder and Tussendijken — an area of the city where, in the evening, foxes are commonly seen. The very image of the fox pays homage to the rural landscape and marshlands currently buried beneath the concrete tiles paving, while the plastic bag is a sign of the city life.

Bospolder Fox by Florentijn Hofman (ph: Frank Hanswijk)

With its rounded edges and vibrant colours contrasting to the grey and austere background, the enormous creature does not seem to belong to the site, it is more likely to sneak through the city’s shadowy crevices. Visitors are invited to shelter beneath the artwork, while children are welcome to play between its paws. The artist believes that since many residents of Rotterdam come from elsewhere, the city keeps its gates open to nature and to newcomers. With his sculpture, he suggests a clash between the two realms – of the city and Nature.

Wormhole by WEsearch lab (ph: Joy Mondal, Abhimanyu Setia and Kumaresh Ghosh)

Since developing South-East Asian countries typically don’t have access to cheap or large scale 3D printing, robot assisted printing, and double-curved metal bending, the design consultancy WEsearch lab with offices in Kolkata and New Delhi has developed a temporary structure using inexpensive building materials with a budget of just USD200. Named ‘Wormhole’, the installation is situated on the lawn of the CEPT University in Ahmedabad, India, and explores a labor intensive, low-cost workflow of assembling pieces fabricated using laser cutting and a CNC milling machines.

Wormhole by WEsearch lab (ph: Joy Mondal, Abhimanyu Setia and Kumaresh Ghosh)

The installation is characterized by the cubic bounding frame respecting the surrounding graphical architecture and the curvaceous surface bending in both directions and drawing the visitors’ attention with its contrasting shape. The artwork is covered with faceted skin of 792 paper pulp sheets joined by staples and supported by a hollow section running along the periphery.

Wormhole by WEsearch lab

3D modelling software was utilized to design the free forms, which were then split into triangular pieces to allow the double-curvature of the structure. The maximum allowed size of the triangles was calculated based on the material properties of the 300gsm paper pulp sheets. A fabrication drawing was generated by flattening and numbering the triangular pieces, and adding flaps for staple connections. Finally, the whole structure was assembled by hand, each detail previously numbered for easy one-to-one assembly.

Salisbury Stairway by Danny Lane

American sculptor Danny Lane has installed a six-meter-tall ‘Stairway’ made of glass and steel in front of Salisbury Cathedral, UK. The contemporary artwork metaphorically ascending to the sky is supposed to mark the 800th anniversary since the laying of the cathedral’s first foundation stone. Thanks to its location, the sculpture gives the impression that one can reach the top of the cathedral’s famous 14th century spire, which at 55 meters stands as the tallest in the UK.

Salisbury Stairway by Danny Lane

However, the sculptor explains that Stairway has a humble relationship of human scale to the grand cathedral and its spire, the sculpture needs the viewer as a participant and their imagination to complete the work. Psychologically and symbolically glass implies fragility, risk, prismatics and spirituality. “When sculpture works, it is trans-dimensional, doing and meaning many things on different levels,” he explains.

The artwork will stay at Salisbury until the end of 2020.