In designing its first light rail system, METRO light rail (Valley Metro Rail Inc.) of Phoenix, Arizona, used a model of collaboration for localities to follow around the country. METRO established an “Urban Design Task Force” comprising of architects, artists, engineers, environmental experts and community activists. The task force developed a set of principles that prioritized and guided all aspects of station design including shade, safety and maintenance, and the incorporation of each station’s art element to work within its neighborhood context. The public art program used these guidelines to design art works that were responsive to both the surroundings and METRO riders.
Foundational to METRO’s success was the continuous collaboration with artists from the inception of the project. METRO officials placed a nationwide call out to artists and positioned them with architectural teams working on each design project. This allowed artwork to be incorporated into existing designs - and project budgets -, ensuring the inclusion of art in each project. Finally, METRO won community support by engaging over 100 community volunteers throughout the design and construction process. Community members served on Station Art Review Panels, the Regional Rail Arts Committee, and engaged in numerous public meetings.
This collaborative process has led to extensive art presence along the METRO system, enhancing the public transportation experience in Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa and provided an example for communities around the country.
Photo: Ilan Averbuch's “Landmark” adorns the Central Avenue / Camelback METRO Rail station in Phoenix, AZ.
Left photo: Artist Nubia Owens created a carpet of over 200 terrazzo pavers that curve and wind around the platform at METRO Rail's 7th Aveneue / Camelback station.
Middle photo: Illuminated "Station Beacons," by Cliff Garten, great riders as they arrive at the 3rd Street / Jefferson station.
Right photo: Stuart Keeler and Michael Machnic created the artwork at the 38th Street / Washington station; this piece is an astronomical tool that notes the passage of time, utilizing the changing path of the Phoenix sun.
*Special thanks to MB Finnerty, Valley Metro, for assistance with this profile.