Ilene Dube, TIMEOFF
psychoacoustics, geomorphology — concepts like these flow
freely off the lips and out of the minds of scientists. The
rest of us screw up our faces, trying to understand. Quark
Park, brought to you by the creators of 2004's Writers Block
on Paul Robeson Place in Princeton, uses art and garden design
to help make accessible some of the cutting-edge scientific
thinking of the day.
||Kevin Wilkes, who won several
architectural awards for Writers Block two years ago, is
at work on Quark Park in Princeton.
Block — a garden of architectural follies, designed for
Princeton-area writers from Joyce Carol Oates to the late
Peter Benchley — seemed to shoot up overnight, like Jack's
beanstalk, Quark Park has been incubating in the minds of
creators Kevin Wilkes, Peter Soderman and Alan Goodheart for a
good year and a half.
moment came on what Mr. Soderman recalls as a rainy day in
November, when he enlisted the help of Arts Council of
Princeton Executive Director Jeff Nathanson to visit renowned
physicist Freeman Dyson at the Institute for Advanced
"We had a nice talk about science
and art," says Mr. Soderman, who runs Bohemian Grove
landscaping company, "and it was the beginning of a dialogue
and the beginning of the synergy of Quark
"We talked about how contemporary
art and science can collaborate in a way that traditional
sculpture could not address," says Mr.
John Nash (Nobel Prize-winning
mathematician and subject of the film A Beautiful Mind)
was sitting at the next table, Mr. Soderman recalls. "When we
left, Jeff said to me, 'How do you feel about being the
dumbest guys in the room?'"
remembers that it was Mr. Soderman who made that remark.
"Peter's a very well-read, extremely intelligent person," says
Mr. Nathanson. "As brilliant as Freeman Dyson is, we're both
professionals in our fields and were able to communicate with
mutual respect. He became intrigued with the idea and said
he'd participate." Dr. Dyson has teamed up with fellow rocket
scientist and Congressman Rush Holt for a project designed by
architect Allan Kehrt.
teams were put together with help from Mr. Nathanson, who was
president of the International Sculpture Center before coming
to the Arts Council, and the Arts Council will provide
programming at Quark Park in the
Like Writers Block, Quark Park is a
temporary project — it will remain up through Thanksgiving.
The "garden," an unsightly empty lot when the
Wilkes/Soderman/Goodheart team is not working its magic, is
ultimately slated for condominiums, but Palmer Square
Management has once again made it
Quark Park was originally
dreamed up to be in place last summer, but fell short of its
fundraising goals. While fundraising is ongoing — the
scientists and sculptors have funded their own projects thus
far, and Mr. Wilkes is still recovering from having dug deep
into his own pockets for Writers Block — the original plan was
to open the July 4 weekend. A soggy sweltering summer hasn't
helped, but work is well underway for a slated Sept. 8
opening. Mr. Wilkes, an architect who runs Princeton Design
Guild, is still hoping to raise an additional $25,000 for an
outdoor stage where lectures, symposia and music can take
place. Think Science-on-Saturday in a garden setting. Mr.
Wilke's stage will be in collaboration with Princeton
University's David Dobkin, whose field is computational
geometry and geodesic structures.
an undergraduate at Princeton University, Mr. Wilkes designed
sets and costumes for two dozen campus shows and studied scene
design. He took three years off between his sophomore and
junior year to work at McCarter Theatre, first as a scenic
artist and then as assistant technical director, and designed
stage sets in New York City. He won two major architectural
awards for Writers Block.
wide path weaves its way through Quark Park, as if through a
maze of sculpture and landscaping. Those watching the project
during the month of July observed a large circular structure
rise up at the center. Supported by massive perfectly straight
tree trunks, it is what Mr. Soderman refers to as a "crop
circle disco" or "arboreal Stonehenge." He alternately talks
of using it for DJed dance parties — "If people in Princeton
think there's no place to dance, there will be the next three
months," he says — or as a labyrinth, and is working with the
Labyrinth Society on the design. He plans tall grasses for the
"A labyrinth is a circuitous
path back to the center, and a maze is designed to entrap and
deceive," says Mr. Soderman, carrying a copy of The
Unending Mystery: A Journey Through Labyrinths and Mazes
by David Willis McCullough. "A labyrinth leads to healing,
if you believe that."
As with Writers
Block, corn is a major part of the landscape, arising
unexpectedly in an urban environment. Practically speaking, it
helps make a lush green curtain to hide the garage. But don't
get out the butter just yet — this corn is ornamental, not
Described as a visionary by
author Joy Stocke in Wild River Review, an online
literary journal, Mr. Soderman says he is a "botanical
"Peter and I do this because
we're interested in the challenge of something new," says Mr.
Wilkes. "We've moved on from Writers Block and we're more
sophisticated in experimenting with lighting, water and
"Unlike Writers Block, this is a
garden you can touch and play with and hug and find new things
on each visit," he continues. "It's slightly hidden in
Having assembled more than 42
members comprising 13 teams, Mr. Wilkes is hopeful the entire
garden can be sold as a "realization" to an institution. "We'd
love to move this to a space where it can be continually
accessible to the public."
Quark Park on Paul
Robeson Place between Witherspoon and Chambers streets,
Princeton, will have its official opening Sept. 8, 6 p.m.
Tickets cost $100. For information about fall programming at
Quark Park, call (609) 924-8777. Quark Park on the Web: www.quarkpark.org
Classifieds Entertainment Business - Princeton and Central New
Jersey 2006 |