Ignite Ferris Plaza was created in response to the need, expressed by Downtown Dallas Inc., to activate under utilized parks in the city of Dallas. This particular park was selected because of its historic significance to the city. MAP conceived of the idea to produce a functional public art piece where people could gather, eat and have conversations. Building on the relationship with Skyline High School that was established in the project, Translating Culture II at the Dallas Museum of Art, MAP’s Janeil Engelstad worked with Skyline’s Architecture Cluster instructor Peter Goldstein to design the overall structure of this year-long program.
To start, students in the Architecture Cluster researched the history of Ferris Plaza park and the surrounding area. Established in 1918 as a “gateway” to Dallas for people coming off of trains at Union Station (which, sits across the street from the park), Ferris Plaza was a part of the historic city wide Kessler Plan developed by George Kessler.
In a landscape architecture workshop led by Dustin Bullard from Downtown Dallas, Inc., at the site, the students considered the many parts of community design. (This was the first of many sites visits over the course of the year). The students then developed several designs on paper and built clay models, which were discussed in subsequent brainstorming workshops. They ultimately selected a design consisting of fifteen concrete benches to weave together beneath Live Oak trees, to provide shade to people sitting on the benches. The design and installation reflect the historical flow of the Trinity River.
Over several months, the benches were constructed by the building trades cluster students led by instructor Doug Palmer and Tony Veno from The Beck Group. This process included building wood forms, pouring concrete with assistance from Osburn Contractors, sanding and polishing. Concurrently, Dallas artist Cassandra Emswiler Burd led mosaic workshops where the students designed broken tile mosaics based on the flora and fauna of the Trinity River and the four seasons. The mosaics are inlaid into the concrete benches. The focal point of the design is a two-tier, 6’ diameter circle with a mosaic map of downtown Dallas highlighting the historical significance of Ferris Plaza and the relationship of the park to the Trinity River.