Cleveland Landmarks Commission Unanimously Approves Updated Design for African-American Cultural Garden

"I wanted the design to be beautiful, to be elegant, and to be something we're proud of as a community."

click to enlarge The final design of the African-American Cultural Garden - Ubiquitous Design LTD
Ubiquitous Design LTD
The final design of the African-American Cultural Garden

The updated design for the African-American Cultural Garden yesterday won unanimous approval from the Cleveland Landmarks Commission, a step that, combined with funding for the project's second phase secured earlier this year through city council legislation and support from the Cleveland Foundation, puts the garden on its most solid footing yet after years of hiccups.

Originally dedicated in 1977, the African-American Cultural Garden broke ground on its four-acre plot on MLK Drive in 2015.

"These are torturous things we're representing," architect W. Daniel Bickerstaff told Scene in an interview years ago, "but I wanted the design to be beautiful, to be elegant, and to be something we're proud of as a community."

The design includes a sandstone portal and black granite corridor on the plot's upper level. New elements will include a black granite pyramidal structure and a water element representing the Atlantic Ocean and North American Waterways leading to a "celebratory fountain" and walkway on the lower level.

The "Past" pavilion "seeks to translate the experience of the initial aspects of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade through the reinterpretation of the corridors, dungeons and ultimately the 'Doorway of No Return of the Slave Castles located along the western coast of the Continent of Africa," Bickerstaff said in a letter to the commission.

The "Present" pavilion, "evokes the sense of 'Emergence'; the sculptural form emerges from the site echoing our emergence, as a people, in this country despite the myriad of challenges."

And the "Future" pavilion, "responds to our need and desire for 'Reflection' and 'Hope' through the re-introduction of a fountain and reflecting pool which contrasts and pays homage to the Past Pavilion water feature and its PASSIVE symbolism. The ASSERTIVE phenomenon of the 'Geyser' effect of the fountain speaks to possessing a sense of pride, power and that of setting our own path and agenda as opposed to being subservient."

Bickerstaff and councilman Kevin Conwell, whose ward includes the cultural gardens, have said the group anticipates completing funding for phase three by the end of 2022 or in early 2023.

Take a further look at the design in the rendering tour below.

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