Part of Shadow Play shortly after it was installed in Roosevelt Row.
Part of Shadow Play shortly after it was installed in Roosevelt Row.
Lynn Trimble

Shadow Play Public Art in Roosevelt Row Wins Architecture Award

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has named Shadow Play by Howeler + Yoon Architecture one of the country’s best small projects.

The Washington, D.C.-based organization founded in 1857 promotes architecture’s role in “economic vitality and public wellbeing.”

Shadow Play was installed in Roosevelt Row in 2015.

It was one of 11 designs recognized with a 2018 AIA Small Project Award. The awards were announced on Friday, June 1.

The artist, Meejin Yoon of Boston, created sculptural shade structures with solar-powered canopies and seating elements for three locations on Roosevelt Street. The sculptures were fabricated with powder-coated steel.

The main component includes seven interconnected sculptures installed on a traffic triangle between Third and Fourth streets. There's another piece on Second Street near Carly's Bistro, and one more on First Street near The Nash.

AIA posted the winning projects on its website, where it included this description for the Phoenix project:

"Positioned on a former traffic median, Shadow Play transforms this space by increasing pedestrian connectivity with the surrounding commercial and arts district by providing space for pedestrians to walk and relax."

Shadow Play was commissioned by the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture Public Art Program, and funded through percent-for-art funds. The project budget was $452,000.

Shadow Play sculpture located near The Nash on First Street.EXPAND
Shadow Play sculpture located near The Nash on First Street.
Lynn Trimble

The piece garnered mixed reviews when it was installed.

Some people said they'd prefer to see work by a Phoenix-based artist in that space. Others noted that the scale of the main installation didn’t match the surrounding buildings.

But scale is no longer an issue, due to rampant development in recent years. Today, the installation that once towered over nearby single-story buildings is dwarfed by the multilevel apartment complexes that surround it.

Even so, Shadow Play has been at the center of significant controversy.

In early January, the city removed an encampment created by homeless individuals at the traffic triangle and arrested several people. Then, it cordoned off the area, and posted signage forbidding camping, lying, and sleeping. Today, Shadow Play is fully accessible to the public.

Small Project Awards were presented in three categories, based on project budget or size. Shadow Play was one of five winners for construction costs below $1.5 million.

Another three are located in California, and one in Oklahoma. All were selected by a five-panel jury, who considered quality of work and how each project reflected the renewal theme for this year’s competition.

Online AIA materials about 2018 winners describe Shadow Play as “an urban platform to reclaim under-used public space." And they highlight the following jury comment: “Wonderfully playful and functional addition to the streetscape.”

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