Urban renewal of neglected spaces and infrastructure can use many approaches, be it adapting for new uses, or using art to transform places completely. American artist-sculptor Bill FitzGibbons was commissioned by the city of Birmingham, Alabama to alter a derelict and dangerous Art Deco railroad underpass with a vibrant light installation.
Built in 1931, the 18th Street underpass connects downtown Birmingham with a new development called Railroad Park. FitzGibbons' installation, titled LightRails, consists of thousands of programmed LEDs, capable of millions of different light combinations, that aim to attract pedestrians.
For FitzGibbons, it's a piece that works with the existing urban fabric, as he tells the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham (CFGB) in an interview:
I think of public art as a place-making tool … It not only transformed the underpass as something that you were hesitant to walk through, but it made the underpass a destination in and of itself … Projects [like this], across many cities, demonstrate that the creative economy which produces things such as public art has a direct influence on how citizens feel about those urban areas.
While not everyone might like it, installing pieces like this is part of an conscientious approach for urban revival that values the history of cities and preserves it for the future, rather than demolishing it completely to build something anonymous and contemporary. More over at Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham (CFGB) and Bill FitzGibbons.