What an adventure the last 16 years has been. In December 2000, the City Council voted to tear down the infamous clock tower as the first step in the redefining Murray Plaza.
This timber structure of angled wooded arms was high art for the ‘60s, but both its outmoded design and failing materials doomed it. To many, this town square will always be remembered as Clocktower Plaza, even if the old clock was only right twice a day.
Murray Plaza is not big but it is intimate and at a center of this river city. Because of its central location, the plaza deserves a daring and majestic centerpiece. The new art installation created by Ned Kahn and approved by the City Council on March 21 will provide a world class structure to go with Napa as a world class destination.
This will not be a traditional town square design. There will not be a fountain or a statue to commemorate some notable event or person. Instead a round overhead canopy with sparkling metallic fragments will glisten, moving with the breezes and refracting the sunlight into millions of shades and shadows on the plaza. Rather than a plaza fountain center piece, it will be the crown suspended above allowing activities and festivals to run year-round.
The loss of a traditional water fountain should not be considered a defeat, but an opportunity to do something untraditional. The art installation designed by Ned Kahn will be an adventure we should embrace and celebrate. This 48-foot-wide canopy, vibrating with the wind and sun, will create a highly desirable place for all to visit and use.
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While it may not cover the entire plaza as I had lobbied for, it will create a unique environment special to a unique river city.
I recognize this design may not sit well with everyone. But art should not be merely acceptable to everyone or it is not art. Art should challenge everyone’s sensibility and be provocative. History and use of this town square will decide if this is the right fit for Napa and now is the time for Napa to be adventurous on the cutting edge of design.
This art piece may be called the “Veil of Water” but to me it is the “Veil of Light.” We should move forward with it as the jewel in the crown. We will not regret what we do; we only regret what we don’t do.
Chris d. Craiker