Relaxation can be hard to find in a big city. Parks and waterfront areas should be hubs for it, but even they can get bogged down by the noise, hustle, and flickering lights that come with urban life.
In New York, one can find relaxation in the middle of Central Park, since its size and countless trees provide a nice buffer from the commotion happening all over Manhattan. But not so much in the much smaller Union Square Park, where a car horn blown on the eastern side could be heard quite well from the western side. Nonetheless, people continue to frequent the latter precisely because they’re so desperate to unwind.
In Tampa, “Form of Wander” is set on a concrete pier above the Hillsborough River, right by Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park. In 2018, it opened as a place of quiet reflection for the surrounding communities. From a distance, its aluminum structure and green hues give off an otherworldly appearance, but it’s actually meant to resemble a group of inverted Floridian mangroves. Commissioned by Hillsborough County Public Art and designed by THEVERYMANY, the public art piece is made from 3,123 individual parts that have been riveted together. Given a look of perpetual swirling despite the fact that it’s standing still, From of Wander has already proven its sturdiness by withstanding the brutal category-four winds of Hurricane Michael.
Rising from the pier are seven trunks, each dividing the waterfront pathway into three distinct sections. Each trunk connects to the others high up in the air, going around and through gaps to form a net of glistening green metal. During the day, shadows move below and around the piece with total unpredictability. At night, Form of Wander glows under the recessed lights that line the surrounding area. It works as both a canopy and a signal to all those looking to gather and (most importantly) relax.
“A destination for your Sunday stroll, a meeting point for your morning runs, [and] an obstacle course for games of tag,” reads the website of THEVERYMANY. In a way, it’s kind of like placing several trees smack dab in the middle of the river. It’s an added layer of peace in a spot that was already tranquil, and it gives the wanderer a reason to venture out above the water and experience a unique part of the city’s pier network.
Cities know how to develop busy destinations, but they don’t always know how to do it successfully. When this happens, the result is most commonly visual pollution in the form of electronic advertising, flashing notices, and bright brand names. Creating a place that promotes relaxation, especially in a space of nothingness like the middle of a river, requires more a more nuanced solution. In Tampa, Florida, that solution took the form of public art.