Walking into Peace Plaza in Downtown Rochester touches upon the senses. The large, climbable, bright red, “Downtown signage: designates the area and is a prime location for a selfie before exploring the sprawling square. Children interact in the scrim pool while crowds gather around the iconic “Peace Fountain” as it gently spills over into the adjacent pool. If you linger long enough over the raised collection of words that adorn the pavement, fog and mist begin to form around the pool in a lush display, drawing you in for contemplation and peaceful reflection. This is more than a hub for happy shoppers, content diners, and those seeking an outdoor urban experience. Beyond the sights and sounds of a thriving metro scene lies an immersive artistic vision with heartfelt messages stemming from foundational public art pieces. The pulsing heart of these complementary artworks creates a place to pause, take a break, take care of the mind, body, and soul as families and friends enjoy their surroundings. Aptly named “The Heart of the City”, this urban center concept is a fun, safe place that promotes wellness through intentional immersive art. Linking Rochester’s noted Mayo Clinic to its Downtown is a motivating invitation for patients, visitors, and residents alike to slow down and connect with our collective spirits in the pursuit of peace and healing.
“The Heart of the City Project”
This unique common began as part of Destination Medical Center’s renovation of Rochester’s famed Peace Plaza bringing together a project team comprised of Coen + Partners, RSP, HR&A advisors, and Kimley-Horn. “The Heart of the City” not only represents the center of Downtown Rochester, Minnesota, it embodies the core of the area’s Destination Medical Center, an innovative economic development initiative with a mission to support the region’s prestigious Mayo Clinic as a global destination for health and wellness. The Mayo Clinic Rochester location is the organization’s original and largest campus. Having cared for patients for over 100 years, it has become one of the world’s leading healthcare and medical research facilities. “The Heart of the City” gives patients, visitors and area residents an elevated experience as a colorful, yet, calming scene. On any given day, you may find a lively festival, an outdoor fitness class, a concert, or even an al fresco wedding party. Planned programs mingle with Pop-up Art installations but the focal attraction remains the plaza’s fluid art pieces.
Poetic words expressing the wonders of nature dot the walkway with raised letters surrounding a lovely water feature titled “Song of Water”. Captivating those around it, children play in the scrim pool while crowds gather around the sculptural “Peace Fountain”. “A Not So Private Sky” is a towering beacon that conceptually connects the poetic pavers of the “Song of Water” to the sky. “Wakefield” is an interactive atmospheric water feature that releases fog at the pool’s edge when a first or last breath is drawn within Mayo Clinic. Studies show that the element of water, in particular, is not only considered a “life source” but significantly affects the psyche. The white noise generated from its movement is known to calm, while water’s general characteristics are considered weightless. The spatial and visual effects of fogging systems not only enhance water features but draws viewers into a connective experience. It seems that “The Heart of the City Project” has harnessed this effect. According to www.downtownrochestermn.com, “This immersive public plaza has four key artworks that create new ways for visitors to interact with each other in a shared space. With artworks made of stone, aluminum, bronze, light, water and fog, they create a range of sensory experiences underfoot and above. Water is the common core that anchors each artwork in this life-giving force.”
“Wakefield”: Connecting our ties to “first and last breaths.”
“Wakefield” is the vision of Rochester artist Eric Anderson. He is one of the four artists selected for the “Heart of the City Project” redesign of Peace Plaza. In “Wakefield”, Anderson has created an impactful piece that connects people with “health events” stemming from the nearby Mayo Clinic hospital. Upon the automated notification of a birth or death at the hospital, a combination of fog and light emerges over the scrim pool’s edges. The rising mist represents the “first and last breaths”, giving those lucky enough to have great timing, a rare chance to pause and give thought to their existential being and belonging in a shared space and beyond.
Koolfog was contracted to work with Fluidity Design Consultants on the system design, configuration, and support of the “Wakefield” fog and mist effects. As a collaborator and technical resource, Koolfog worked with Fluidity to help ensure that the artist’s vision came to life. Artistic vision, landscape aesthetics, purpose, and engineering requirements were critical factors that were considered prior to making recommendations for the fog solution. Of course, the when, where, and how was also integral to the project’s success. Birth and Deaths at the Mayo Clinic occur 20-30 times a day, requiring the integration of control systems to trigger the activation of the fog. The fog nozzles, housed under grates that surround the scrim pool, were designed for wide coverage and Koolfog’s variable pressure feature allowed the fog to emit slowly and then ramp to a peak before retreating under the grating. In addition, daily changes from daylight to dark had to be addressed so that the mist display could be prominently featured on a 24-hour basis.
Lighting of the fog effects also became an integral part of project and were incorporated into the design. Up-lighting the mist and fog is significant for recognizing the timed birth and passage of life. All-in-all the importance of the fog as a substantial visual queue gives awareness to life’s precious moments.