2019 | Phoenix, AZ | Public Art | Government

The “Sew-cial” project was born from the desire of the residents and local business owners at 16th Street and Bethany Home Road to emphasize the identity of their neighborhood in order to fight back against rising street violence. By focusing on place making, patterns, and identity, the shelter emphasizes the philosophical ownership the community has taken over the public realm.

The program called for public art that would bolster the neighborhood identity with a $95,000 ‘Fight Back’ grant from the City of Phoenix’s Neighborhood Services Department, awarded through the local business-owner coalition’s application. The artists proposed custom transit shelters and street furniture designed with patterns tied to the neighborhood’s history.

The neighborhood’s unique Mid-Century Modern beginnings were the primary influence on the bus shelter pattern designs. Not only did Ralph Haver and other architects designing in the area in the 1940s, 50s and 60s often utilize custom masonry block and tile, international fashion textile designs and industrial design of the era produced many diverse and iconic patterns as well.

Using these historical patterns as the basis of design, the team morphed and combined the patterning, creating visual impact and a connection to place–something most urban bus shelters lack. This iconography rooted in the history of the neighborhood creates public transit infrastructure instantly recognizable for riders and a point of pride for nearby residents and businesses.

Originally proposed as a network of patterns that tie together crosswalks, sidewalks, telephone poles, bus shelters and street furniture, the final iteration, produced from a series of meetings between the City of Phoenix’s Public Transit and Neighborhood Services departments, the Office of Arts and Culture, the Federal Highway Administration, and the project team, resulted in shelters and furniture that transform the streetscape through play of shadow and light.

Designed to play with solar movement, the shelters and furniture appear kinetic from morning to evening with the change in daylight. Sunlight and shadow cast the compilation of pattern imagery across sidewalks and streets, weaving together the streetscape with the surrounding neighborhood’s historic and iconic character.