When Bart Shaw, AIA, was visiting Fairmount Park in preparation for proposing an installation for the site, he noticed something strange. Sticking out of the grass was an old, rusted sewer pipe. The park, as it turned out, had once been occupied by several houses that were removed sometime in 1990, just before the Fairmount neighborhood was declared a historic district.
What remains is a small, empty lawn, hemmed in by streets on all sides, where neighborhood residents play games and enjoy family picnics. The same residents did not like the generic, green vinyl-covered steel mesh picnic tables that the Fort Worth Park & Recreation Department dropped off for their use, so they petitioned Fort Worth Public Art for a more sympathetic replacement. Shaw was one of three artists invited to compete for the job. His winning design, titled “Memory: Fairmont Park,” is a series of three picnic tables that evoke the site’s lost houses. “I thought that what would be meaningful to the community would be to create some memory of the neighborhood fabric that had been there since 1910,” says Shaw. “What that architecture was about was its porches, a space between the privacy of the house and the public street where you could hang out and meet your neighbors.” The three tables are positioned approximately where the front walks and porches of three of the lost houses once stood. A basalt gravel path leads from the street, across the sidewalk, and into the park. Steel pipes emerge from the gravel to support the framework of the tables and benches. The table pipes are stainless steel. The bench pipes are raw steel, meant to rust, and the seating is made out of slats of Massaranduba, a Brazilian hardwood. The street ends of the tables, which are made from white Krion, step up from the ground, much in the manner of porch steps. For shade, Shaw planted a tree at the end of each table. Each is a different type of maple tree, whose uniqueness recalls the unique designs of the houses that once stood there.