Was Charlotte's not-so-lamented lost artwork "Topo" (above, in happier days) an early incarnation of the undulating earthworks for which artist/architect Maya Lin is now famous?
Read this New York Times article from today about a Lin work, Storm King Wavefield, at the Storm King Art Center in New York. Look at the wavefield. Does it not remind you a bit of the now-demolished "Topo" Lin did early in her career, in Charlotte?
The piece I did about Gumby and public art (read it here) mentioned Maya Lin's landscape art for the now-demolished Charlotte Coliseum on Tyvola Road. When the City Council turned thumbs down on Joel Shapiro's proposed sculpture, a.k.a. "Gumby," the public art commission turned to the young Yale-graduate Lin, who had won worldwide acclaim for her 1982 Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. She and Henry Arnold of Princeton collaborated to create "Topo" – nine large, ball-shaped Burford hollies arranged on an undulating median at the Coliseum. The original plan called for a misting system so the balls would appear to float. That idea was dropped because of its cost.
"Topo" was installed in 1991. It was pleasant, and I always liked the undulating berms, the shaping of which Lin herself supervised on site. But unless you were in a helicopter, it was a bit hard to get the overall sense of "Topo." And it always seemed to me that any sculpture lively enough to have acquired a name even before it was built would have become a kind of beloved civic character – maybe not as beloved as Charlotte Hornet Muggsy Bogues, but beloved nonetheless.
Look at Lin's work since then (somehow, "Topo" doesn't show up on her Web site) and it's clear she has put that undulating earth concept at the center of much of her recent work. Storm King Wavefield looks magnificent – like a mature and confident version of the baby version in "Topo." As Lin's fame has grown, "Topo" might well have become notable simply for being one of her earliest.
The city sold the Coliseum for private development, and the building was imploded in 2007. The new owners tried unsuccessfully to find someone to adopt "Topo" and its nine hollies. "Topo" was demolished in 2008. The photo below shows the work in its last days.