Written by: Katherine Feser
Parking garages are becoming the latest canvas for public art as developers aim to create places where people want to be.
Trademark Property Co. has carved out Instagram-worthy spots on traditionally overlooked spaces across several of its developments, including Rice Village in Houston.
“People are very against parking garages, even though they’re shaded and cooler,” said Cassie King, Trademark’s director of design and innovation. “To help change that stigma, we’ve started dressing them up more.”
Perched above a garage stairwell on Kelvin Drive, an origami-like blue metal owl by California artist Nathan Mabry is reminiscent of nearby Rice University, which owns the Trademark Property-managed shopping district.
Around the corner on Amherst, Michael C. Rodriguez’s inspirational mural of a female astronaut against the Houston skyline has become a hot spot for selfies. Prolific Houston muralist Mario Enrique Figueroa Jr., also known as Gonzo247, marked the bricks elsewhere including a Houston Strong message on a colorful hand and heart design.
The theme of connecting with Houston is evident on other garages, too. Earlier this year, Houston-based Wedge Group commissioned international artist C. Finley for the “Sky Dance” mural on downtown’s 1415 Louisiana parking garage. The privately held investment firm collaborated with the Downtown District and the Houston Ballet on the mural, which rises 13 stories tall and depicts three ballerinas to celebrate Houston’s art scene. At 230 feet wide by 130 feet tall, it’s said to be Houston’s largest mural.
At Rice University, a recently built garage is more subtle. Angled mesh screens in a fig vine pattern cover the seven-story garage, creating a sculpture that blends in with the heavily-treed campus along Main Street.
The Rice Village garage art is part of a plan to create an urban environment with more plazas and gathering areas, food trucks and art interspersed throughout the shops and restaurants of the 80-year-old shopping district near University Boulevard and Kirby Drive.
The Trademark projects in Rice Village and elsewhere use paint, lighting and design elements to make people feel safer, and keep them engaged and entertained, King said.
“We utilize garages in a way for not only way-finding and place-making, but overall experience because that is sometimes your front door,” King said. “It’s your first experience when you drive in property.”
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