Public Art of the Week: Washington Square’s walls


Washington Square’s walls

While talking with author Janna Jones for this week’s literary column on the art of Marshall Fredericks and the ephemeral nature of public art, it brought me back to the 1970s and the downtown Lansing Washington Square Mall.

With great fanfare, the Mall opened in 1972 as a way to draw people downtown, but it turned out to be an ill-advised urban planning idea to close city streets and create a pedestrian mall.

The corner of Washington and Michigan avenues running north marked the beginning of the mall. A polished stainless-steel mechanized sculpture titled “Construction 150,” by artist Jose Rivera, was placed in the center where the streets crossed.

Going north on Washington for three blocks was a pedestrian plaza decorated and defined by a fountain that worked sporadically and an extensive series of cast-concrete reliefs designed and installed by W. Robert Youngman. There were play areas and seating areas along the way defined by the cast concrete walls.

After an uproar from local businesses, the mall was demolished and reopened to traffic in 2005. “Construction 150” now resides on the campus of Lansing Community College.

Youngman’s giant slabs of concrete looked like they were headed for a landfill when developer Gene Townshend hauled them to a westside site in the Genessee neighborhood, where they sat for years before being installed in a neighborhood garden, where they rest today, at the corner of Leitram and Lapeer streets.

Public Art of the Week is a new feature that rotates with Eyesore of the Week. If you have an idea for either, please email or call (517) 999-6704.



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