May 2, 2016

The trick is to make the area interesting while keeping it human friendly and practical.

Modern cities are in grave need of great public spaces – plazas and squares, meeting places for communities, green areas inspiring people to spending time outdoors.

The trick is to make the area interesting while keeping it human friendly and practical.

Cliff Garten, internationally recognized sculptor, founder of the Cliff Garten Studio and the designer of the Receptor project, seems to have nailed it; his constant search for a public space which can become more than just a sum of its functions resulted in several extraordinary projects, the Receptor at Patriot Ridge in Springfield, Virginia being one of the most recent.

The design

The sculpture in Garten’s eyes is not just the usual separate object that we are all used too; it encompasses its surroundings, joining together the traditional monument with the elements of landscape and architecture.

In the case of the Receptor it consists of the central bronze and stainless steel sculpture, surrounded by four organically – shaped mounds of earth covered by grass and ornamental planting. Each mound’s perimeter consists of concrete seating, lit up at night with LED lights.


The central sculpture, also brightly lit at night, symbolizes a platform for communication through its three elliptical and circular dishes.

The linear seating bands create a linear landscape which references the reception of satellite communication from space to the earth. The whole plaza is quite spacious, but not gigantic, covering the area of 250×400 feet (about 76x122m).


How are people using this space?

The whole area is well visible from the surrounding tall office buildings, including the adjacent National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. The employees and visitors use the space extensively – to rest, meet, and socialise.

The central sculpture provides a great meeting place, whereas the long benches,integrated into the mounds allow for the more private gatherings, providing plenty of space to sit down and socialise.

The soft, organic shapes of the earth mounds together with the accompanying greenery create a relaxing, soothing atmosphere.

Thanks to the bright, but soft LED lights the plaza is user – friendly also during the hours after dark, which enhances its usability immensely.


It is evident that the design of this plaza was thoroughly researched and thought through.

The central sculpture and the surrounding mounds work together, creating a great public space. I can only wish that more modern cities get that kind of area designed and executed for them – we certainly need it!