Fritz Haeg's Animal Estates Snag Tower [Photo Credit: Monique Deschaines/FOR-SITE Foundation]
How does public art play with the space of an urban area? In San Francisco, public art is important to people, but open space is scarce. Open spaces dedicated to slices of visual quality, such as the POPOS or Pavement to Parks projects, engage the public in a conversation about art without the confinements of a museum. The recently opened Presidio Habitats redefines this conversation of art and place by exhibiting art in an urban national park.
This installation is unique because it is built for native animals. Architect Fritz Haeg embraces the idea of building for the animal client through his Animal Estates project, which he has installed throughout the United States and built according to the natural space of the specific area. One of these installations is Snag Tower in Presidio Habitats.
Haeg's work does not focus on promoting himself as an artist, but rather blends into the environment, like another tree, through its minimalist design. Snag Tower stands alone, but like a tree becomes a unique part in a collective whole. The FOR-SITE Foundation, which aims to promote "art about place," describes Snag Tower as "a prototype for a collective model home designed to accommodate six animal clients that would otherwise live in a snag, or standing dead tree, in the park." Haeg's desire to share the overlooked beauty of a dead tree, by recreating it with the Snag Tower installation, presents the public with a new definition of natural beauty.
In this initial phase, Presidio Habitats embodies art about place because it represents and interacts with the environment of the Presidio. Perhaps over time this unique example of public art will come to define the park. Haeg's piece in particular represents a subtle piece of architecture that defines and responds to its surroundings. Presidio Habitats stands apart from other public art installations because it changes the interaction of art and place in urban areas by graying the relationship between them.