• Art for Plants’ Sake: Encouraging Arid Plant Palettes Through Installation Art

      Livingston, Margaret; Lutheran, Matthew (The University of Arizona., 2019)
      The City of Tucson is currently experiencing growing pains as urban revitalization converts empty lots throughout Downtown Tucson into housing and retail. The increase in density results in a city with more pedestrian amenities, however it also reduces the amount of available urban green space. As the space for green amenities contract, the remaining landscape is converted into a commercially available plant palette, however this development provides no reference to Tucson’s environmental context. Tucson is located within the Sonoran Desert, a semi-arid region that receives 12” of annual rainfall. Limited water availability combined with extreme heat has created a unique ecosystem of diverse plant and animal life adapted to difficult conditions. The urban environment creates additional environmental constraints such as degraded soils, increased disturbance, and reduced light, which lead many urban projects to select plant material solely based on urban constraints. As urban development brings more residents into the urban core, the demand for urban parks will continue to increase. Small urban parks are a valuable refuge for residents and wildlife alike, providing relief from the urban environment. Urban parks provide important social spaces allowing the community to gather and landscape elements that reflect the community to strengthen its identity. Public art enhances the urban environment by illustrating the genus loci that bonds residents to the site and their community while engaging new users. To reflect the unique context of the Sonoran Desert, Tucson’s urban parks must educate the public about the benefits of working in concert with Tucson’s natural environment. A series of art installations will highlight the unique methods plants of the Sonoran Desert use to survive harsh desert conditions. Installation art will promote understanding of arid-adapted plants while accompanying planting displays will acclimatize the public to the aesthetics of desert landscapes. As the public becomes aware of the benefits of climate-appropriate plants they will demand that these communities are integrated into the urban landscape matrix to benefit the city and environment alike. Desert-adapted plants provide native habitat, and give residents greater connection to their city and highlighting the unique context of Tucson’s surroundings.