Looking in retrospect and thanks to urban activists like Jane Jacobs, we now know that elevated highways can be a real eyesore, often effectively destroying established neighbourhoods and bringing in traffic congestion. But even with existing freeways there can still be opportunities to revitalize the areas around them, as recent projects in New York City and proposals in Toronto have shown.
In San Antonio, Texas, a duo of artists created a community gathering space with the installation of elegant chandeliers built out of recycled bicycle parts, transforming a dingy, dark freeway underpass into a rather charming space.
Calling it Ballroom Luminoso, artists Joe O’Connell and Blessing Hancock repurposed various bike components, combined it with some custom steel work and LEDs to create six luminous spheres that glow and change colour.
The artists explain via This is Colossal, linking the installation with the area's history and emerging bike culture:
Ballroom Luminoso references the area’s past, present, and future in the design of its intricately detailed medallions. The images in the medallions draw on the community’s agricultural history, strong Hispanic heritage, and burgeoning environmental movement. The medallions are a play on the iconography of La Loteria, which has become a touchstone of Hispanic culture. Utilizing traditional tropes like La Escalera (the Ladder), La Rosa (the Rose), and La Sandía (the Watermelon), the piece alludes to the neighborhood’s farming roots and horticultural achievements. Each character playfully rides a bike acting as a metaphor for the neighborhood’s environmental progress, its concurrent eco-restoration projects, and its developing cycling culture.
The details on the chandeliers are quite intricate, due to the shapes of the sprockets, and create a real atmosphere of mystery, delight and presence -- evoking a majestic ballroom space.
The installation is currently located under the I-35 overpass at the intersection of Theo and Malone in San Antonio, and was commissioned by Public Art San Antonio (PASA), Department for Culture and Creative Development. For more information, check out the artists' website at JB Public Art.