The adventures of Kurt, Sarah, Ethan, Reid & Leah

Public art: Grass Roots Square

On one of my paths to work I pass by this extremely interesting public art piece. It consists of many small figures, reminiscent of plastic army men, meticulously placed into the squares of this plaza. They are at varying heights and numbers and seems to spread outward from a more prominent center area. I was finally able to get some good shots the other day, however I could not locate any information on the artwork. I asked a few of the security guards who were standing there about the artist and they said they knew it was someone Asian, that it was only very recently completed, and the information was yet to be posted.

But thanks to Google I was able to pinpoint the location on a map  (corner of Teatergata and Munch’s Gate, however it is blacked out in street view as it is a government area with the most security I have seen since arriving) and conduct a few searches until I hit upon who created it and what it was.


From Koro, the agency that overseas the public art:

Do Ho Suh takes the outer corner of the paved square as a starting point and has proposed the planting of a tree there. Between and partly replacing the paving stones in this area, he will place a number of 8-10 cm high human figures in green patinated bronze, like blades of grass sprouting up among the stones. From above this creates a playful geometric pattern across the square. The figures are individually formed and represent diversity in terms of age, gender, ethnicity and occupational categories. The intention is that pedestrians can walk over the figures and use the raised stones for seating.

From the artist: ”I was also struck by the architect’s desire to respect the typography of the slope by taking it into the lobby. (…) For me the continuity of material reflects the tradition of Norway’s institutional architecture. This led me to create a piece about the general public and to respect Norway’s tradition in making something very modest. Instead of designing a sculpture that is vertical and monumental, in the tradition of public art, I decided to follow the slope of the plaza and create something horizontal. At first glance it does not look as though there is anything there. Grass Roots Square is at ground level, the same level of the plaza and the public. It is at this level, the grass roots level, where you can truly understand a community.

While I like the title, this site does not make me think of grass or roots. Quite the opposite. The use of tiny figurines conjure up militaristic associations of solidarity and unity. I saw it as a reflection of the egalitarian society that exists here. ‘We all hold up the building blocks and share in the load of our community’ sort of thing. Which is made even more poignant by the site being located in such close proximity to the July 2011 bombings in downtown Oslo. An act meant to rip the city apart, yet brought them so much closer together.

The other proposals for the artwork in this square can be seen at the bottom of this page.


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