First Bold Booth Now Operational in Downtown Columbus

Picture of Coney Island boothThe first of five dynamic parking lot attendant booths that transform the mundane into public art is now open. Titled Coney Island, the first booth is located in the parking lot of The Westin Columbus–Great Southern Hotel in downtown Columbus just east of the corner of South High and East Main streets.

The Bold Booths project combines art and function in one-of-a-kind installations unique to Columbus, Ohio. This pioneering project is an extension of Finding Time: ColumbusPublicArt2012. The innovative parking attendant booths will not only provide shelter for attendants, but will spark community dialogue about the role design plays in expanding the social capital within the city. Coney Island was designed by Blostein/Overly Architects, and the name is an homage to the legendary Southern Theatre.

"At the time the theatre was built it was renowned for its superior acoustics which were made possible through the use of unique geometries," said Beth Blostein, co-designer of Coney Island and associate professor at the Knowlton School of Architecture. "These conic sections were re-engineered to form the spaces and views from the booth."

Malcolm Cochran, professor emeritus in the Department of Art at Ohio State and the project curator, said the concept of "new meets old" runs through the Bold Booths initiative.

"The hotel and the theatre have been fixtures in Columbus for many years. We selected this site for the first booth as a thank you to the hotel for providing a significant donation of complimentary rooms to out of town artists and curators in the Finding Time program," he said. "It is a chance to think of old surface parking lots in a new way with a marriage between public art and architecture."

Co-designer Bart Overly said Coney Island is a "big, little project," meaning it is small in size, but a complex design that required ingenuity and skilled craftsmanship.

"The project is an intense amount of geometric maneuverability within a little parking island," he said. "Its combination of digitally and conventionally fabricated parts required an equally intense level of craft and precision by the general contractor, MCR."

The booth will be staffed 24-hours-a-day, making its functional design imperative to the well being of its attendants. Cochran said a main component of the series is to instill just as much of a sense of pride and ownership in their occupants as they do in their observers.

Image of Coney Island booth with parking attendant"In our culture, someone who manages the parking attendant booth is not very high up on the totem pole...so I think it's pertinent that these people will be housed in really interesting micro- buildings," he said. "Somebody working there will have pride of ownership of working in a custom-designed work environment, and that speaks volumes for the people manning these booths."

This project is made possible through grant funding from The Ohio State University Office of Outreach and Engagement, a program supporting innovative and scholarly outreach and engagement programs that leverage the academic excellence of The Ohio State University with community partners, and funds from the Finding Time program. The $60,000 grant provides funding for the first two projects. Additional funding of $20,000 has been provided by The Columbus Foundation.

Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District is the community partner for the program.

"We're excited to be a part of this program with The Ohio State University. The university's involvement in downtown will result in a unique approach to public art with Bold Booths," said Capital Crossroads SID Executive Director Cleve Ricksecker.

Additionally, MCR Services, a Columbus-based general contractor and its consortium of subcontractors have helped bring the project to life by making considerable donations of in-kind materials and labor.

"In MCR's 20-year history and my 30-year career in the construction industry, Coney Island was by far the most unique project we have ever tackled," said Wade Hungerford, president and CEO of MCR Services. "With all of the challenges I am very proud of the persistence, dedication and caring spirit of the craftspeople engaged from conception to completion."

A dedication celebration will be held at the Coney Island booth on June 7 from 2-4 p.m.

More information can be found at www.boldbooths.org.

Contact: Malcolm Cochran, (614) 291-6002

Photos by Andy Spessard.