Harvard Undergraduate Wins Radcliffe Institute Public Art Competition

John Wang ’16 Connects the Past and Present in Design for the Wallach Garden
John Wang '16, winner of the Radcliffe Institute Public Art Competition cycle 3. Photo by Kevin Grady, Radcliffe Staff PhotographerJohn Wang '16, winner of the Radcliffe Institute Public Art Competition cycle 3. Photo by Kevin Grady, Radcliffe Staff Photographer
April 12, 2016

Karla Strobel, Communications Manager 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016—The Radcliffe Institute today announced that the winner of the Radcliffe Institute Public Art Competition is John Wang ’16, a concentrator in the history of art and architecture at Harvard College. This is the third cycle of an innovative Radcliffe Institute student competition that supports the installation and awards a $10,000 prize for the construction of public art in the Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Garden in Radcliffe Yard. Wang is the first undergraduate student to win the competition.

Wang’s inventive design proposal is titled In Search of 100 Years at 73 Brattle. Now the site of the Wallach Garden, 73 Brattle was the street address for the Sawin Building, a private residence that Radcliffe purchased from Cambridge businessman Moses Sawin in 1917 and turned into a structure that housed Radcliffe College classrooms, furthering the education of women. The building was demolished in 1932 and the space was an underutilized garden until the Radcliffe Institute unveiled the first installation of the Public Art Competition in 2013.

Wang’s installation will create a garden on the former building’s footprint that highlights the changing history of Brattle Street and Radcliffe’s place in that evolution. Granite blocks will establish the building’s footprint, while benches and drawing or writing surfaces will invite people to gather and share ideas. The proposed use of the garden reflects the Radcliffe Institute’s commitment to convening scholarly exchanges across disciplines and with the public.

The jury selected Wang’s design from more than 40 design submissions. The submissions shared innovative perspectives on a wide variety of topics, including the juxtaposition of poverty and wealth, biological processes, land use, urban history, and play.

“John Wang’s proposal stood out for its elegance and economy. His project ignites a search for meaningful overlays of past and present and proposes a way to make a space of the now that builds on the evocative foundations of the then,” said Matt Saunders, a juror on the Radcliffe Institute Public Art Competition committee and an assistant professor of visual and environmental studies.

Wang’s installation will be constructed during the summer of 2017 and unveiled in the fall of 2017, the year marking the centennial of Radcliffe’s ownership of 73 Brattle. Wang relied on the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute to discover the many roles the site has fulfilled over the years. Based on that research, Wang proposes, “the creation of this gathering space aims to further the goal of today’s Radcliffe, just as Sawin House once did by creating an enjoyable space for interactions and conversation.”

From the design proposal for In Search of 100 Years at 73 Brattle. Courtesy of John WangFrom the design proposal for In Search of 100 Years at 73 Brattle. Courtesy of John Wang

“We were thrilled to receive a large number of applications from a very diverse pool, ranging from Harvard College undergraduates to graduate students in the Graduate Schools of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School of Design,” said Dean Lizabeth Cohen. “The proposed installations impressed us with their breadth of concept, design, and subject matter spanning the arts, history, and science. I am delighted that the Radcliffe Institute is giving Harvard students this opportunity to create art for the public to enjoy.”

Wang was one of many students who participated in an intensive Wintersession workshop that was fashioned to orient applicants to place-based artworks and offer mentoring to help improve their submissions. Taught by architect Julian Bonder MDes ’96, students were exposed to the rich history and practice of public art and mentored in the technical aspects of creating proposals.

A graduating senior, Wang is looking forward to how this project will complement his pursuit of a new career or graduate studies in design. “I have always wanted to do something tangible outside the classroom. This installation is a unique learning opportunity: it gives me the chance to combine what I have learned in the studio with my undergraduate studies about history, material, and the social aspect of architecture.”

The Radcliffe Institute Public Art Competition is a unique opportunity for Harvard students, who not only receive a $10,000 award and work closely with Radcliffe staff and landscape architects to build their design, but also have the unique experience of joining theory with practice. Latent (e)Scapes by Harvard Graduate School of Design student Christina Geros MAUD, MLA ’15, the winner of the second Radcliffe Institute public art competition, is currently on view in the Wallach Garden and features thin acrylic stalks lit from within and below by internal LED lighting. Saturate the Moment, by Harvard Graduate School of Design students Keojin Jin and Juhun Lee, inaugurated the public art competition and was unveiled in October 2013.

About the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University is dedicated to creating and sharing transformative ideas across the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences. Learn more about the people and programs of the Radcliffe Institute at www.radcliffe.harvard.edu.

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