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Inspiration and Ideas

Design Inspiration:: Plumbing Sculpture

By May 16, 2011May 25th, 2011One Comment

Inspiration:: stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings etc, to special or unusual activity or creativity

This definition of inspiration perfectly describes what I feel when I see something interesting which stimulates my mind into a creative thinking process. Quite often it’s something I see which could be adapted for the design of urban wildlife habitat. At the time I saw this fascinating structure several years ago, it only inspired me to take photos, but revisiting the photos recently inspired me to a greater extent. This was located at Edgefield, a McMenamins property near Portland, Oregon. McMenamins is a Pacific Northwest institution. They buy old, often historic buildings and properties, and transform them into extremely popular pubs and hotels. Edgefield used to be the county poor farm but now offers a pub, restaurant, theater, hotel and par-3 course. They also brew beer, make wine and whiskey, have resident artists, a farm, vineyard and extensive landscaped grounds. Visiting a McMenamins is always inspiring because they employ a team of artists for all of their locations who paint, tile and decorate everything from doorknobs, walls, lamps and pipes.

This pipe and plant structure is very unique and intriguing. There’s admirable reuse of materials such as pipes and  beer kegs and the structure makes a very unique arbor. While adding a vertical element to an otherwise flat courtyard area, it also adds an additional amount of planting space in a mostly hardscaped area. I like the structure for that reason, because it does add additional space for plants which could be a very valuable aspect for courtyards, rooftops, plazas and other spaces with a lot of impervious surface. It does so in a very creative way, and that’s the second reason I like this, because it’s art. This is something that people notice. The interior of McMenamins, which is full of art, is continued outside with the same artistic theme. The plant-filled beer kegs and rustic plumbing parts completely fits in with the McMenamins style and offers an intriguing  visual aspect to this courtyard which is the heart of the property where concerts take place and visitors dine on summer afternoons. This particular sculpture would certainly not fit in everywhere, but with some creative thinking, other settings could adapt their own artistic approach to this idea.

This arbor could be happily adapted for habitat. The small upright joints could contain wildflowers, flowering sedums and groundcovers while the deeper kegs could easily grow larger wildflowers and even small shrubs and vines. Bird houses could be attached to the structure or even constructed out of a keg or pipe. The construction of this structure also lends plenty of space for spiders to build webs and birds to build nests if it was in a less heavily used location. Additionally, it offers perching for birds or dragonflies, basking for lizards or snakes and shelter for insects.  Instead of soil for plants, water could be used for wildlife and possibly even a small fountain to provide moving water for hummingbirds. It would make one unique addition to habitat.

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Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner is a naturalist, writer and photographer based in Seattle. She is the author of NATURE OBSCURA: A City’s Hidden Natural World from Mountaineers Books. She writes freelance articles about natural history and has bylines in Crosscut, Popular Science, National Wildlife Magazine and others. On the side she writes fiction. Kelly holds a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon and a certificate in non-fiction writing from the University of Washington.

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