Last week I was in Seattle for a couple days. A friend suggested I check out the new Olympic Sculpture Park. It was near my hotel so I walked over there to see what was up.


Nice landscaping, nice setting, nice sculpture, but the lasting impression wasn’t made by the art, it was made by a sign (actually, about 10 signs):

They even had an extra specific warning in one spot that “Even the lightest touch harms the art… Help the art survive… PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH.”

Public art in a public outdoor space in the middle of public paths and public lawns yet you can’t touch it. The only interaction is visual. It’s standoffish. It feels like a missed opportunity.


Contrast this with Chicago’s Millennium Park. Public art and architecture that is entirely interactive.

A fountain that spits on you:

Or a snaking bridge that you can walk or hang out on:

Or reflect in public:

Chicago understands public art in a public space. The public will only be interested if they can engage with it. Walk on it, play it in, look into it, touch it, brush up against it. If you go to Millennium Park you’ll actually see and hear kids playing over the place. I don’t think you’d see a single kid at the Seattle Olympic Sculpture Park having a good time. I didn’t see any adults who were particularly interested either.