The McColl Park Project Committee and Charlotte Center City Partners on Thursday night released renderings of three potential designs for McColl Park on one-third of an acre that had formerly been the site of Polk Park at the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets.
Oakland, California-based social art and design firm Hood Design Studio (HOOD) is leading the design phase of the park, with help from Bolton & Menk. Charlotte City Council voted to name the park after Hugh L. McColl Jr., the philanthropist and former Bank of America Chairman and CEO, in March 2023.
In putting together potential designs for McColl Park, the HOOD team considered the history of the area as it relates to Indigenous people, the American Revolution, and the park itself, according to a press release on Thursday night.
“I believe that in order to make places artful, it is essential to create an environment where people can come and truly feel something,” said Walter Hood, creative director and founder of HOOD and the lead designer for McColl Park. “Our thought process in creating these design concepts for McColl Park centered around the idea of evoking emotions and creating a sense of connection.”
Thursday’s release followed an open house held at Visual and Performing Arts Center (VAPA) on Thursday where community members were invited to view the design concepts and share feedback, which will be used to help shape the final design.
“It provided the perfect platform for the community to get a first look at the design concepts we have crafted for McColl Park,” said Hood. “Throughout this project, we have been deeply committed to getting input from the community. The thoughts they shared will help shape the final design.”
The three distinct design concepts are as follows, with the descriptions provided verbatim as written by the design team:
The concept of the Floating Nest reflects Charlotte’s nickname, “The Hornet’s Nest,” with history rooted in the American Revolution. Drawing inspiration from North Carolina’s forests and native trees, a series of elements are “nested” and suspended above the space, representing the community of Charlotte and the diversity of people coming together in Charlotte’s historic city center. Emerging from a grove of trees, the Floating Nest is reflected in a water mirror below. A waterwall anchors the southern edge of the park.
The intersection of Trade and Tryon streets is where two Native American trading paths met and is the highest point in the city at 751 feet above sea level. Central to the space and referencing this datum is a tall, thin spire that represents the historic and current center of Charlotte. To the east, a molded sculptural canopy frames the entrance to the adjacent building. Anchoring the southern edge of the space is a layered canopy of trees, serving as a shady place to sit, as well as to provide spring blooms.
A Crown marks the center of Charlotte — the “Queen City” named after Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg. The Verdant Crown is made of an innovative material — aluminum foam — lightweight with many small holes that can be planted with local plants and vines. These sculptural forms and their plant life will reflect the seasonality and provide a frame for the spaces below. The Crown lands in a series of gardens and a reflecting pool with pathways throughout, creating a garden at the corner of Trade and Tryon.
“I am absolutely blown away by the incredible design concepts Walter Hood and Hood Design Studio have developed for McColl Park,” said Cyndee Patterson, former Charlotte City Council member and co-chair of the McColl Park Project Committee, a private group of civic leaders raising funds for the project. “Their innovative and visionary approach aligns perfectly with the trailblazing man this park will honor. The committee’s most important role was to select the right designer for this project, and Walter and his team have exceeded our very high expectations.”
Michael Smith, president and CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners and McColl Park Project Committee member, expressed his enthusiasm for the design work in Thursday’s release as well, highlighting its alignment with the Center City 2040 Vision Plan and the reimagining of Tryon Street.
“The team at Hood Design Studio has done an incredible job capturing the spirit of the future McColl Park. We are also grateful to the Charlotte community for their valuable input throughout this process,” said Smith.
Originally from Charlotte, Walter Hood is also the chair and a professor of landscape architecture and environmental planning at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a recipient of the 2019 Knight Foundation Public Spaces Fellowship, 2019 MacArthur Fellowship, and the 2021 United States Artists Fellowship, and was inducted into the Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2023.
Among Hood’s projects are The Ancestors Garden at the International African American Museum, Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park, the Oakland Museum of California, and the Peter Oliver Pavilion Gallery in Winston-Salem.
To stay updated on the McColl Park project, visit its website.
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