Black Hawk Mini Park – Iowa City Public Art – “The Lens” Project by Cecil Balmond

“The Lens” – Summary

This document provides links to articles and resources relating to “The Lens” by Cecil Balmond – a proposed Iowa City Public Art installation in the Black Hawk Mini Park.

News Coverage and Opinions

October 2015

December 2015

February 2016

March 2016

Iowa City Public Art Program

The update below is from the Iowa City Public Art Program web page as of 14 March 2016.



Downtown Pedestrian Mall art project update

Professional artists from all mediums were invited to submit Requests for Qualifications (RFQs) to the City for the project, which will be installed in the Black Hawk Mini Park as part of the City’s new Downtown streetscape project. Three finalists were among 26 artists or teams of artists who submitted RFQs for the project. A review panel chose final candidates based on their qualifications and the quality of their previous works and invited them to Iowa City to visit the Pedestrian Mall and host public Open Houses where members of the community could learn more about their work and their vision for the Iowa City site. Below are the finalists, more information and update on their visits to Iowa City:

In February 2015, the panel made a recommendation to City Council to select Cecil Balmond as the artist to develop the artwork concepts.

Video Presentation

Working with the Artist Selections Committee, City staff, Downtown District representatives and consultant Genus Landscape Architects, Dr. Balmond presented his design – The “Lens” to the public on October 1, 2015.  A video of the presentation is below.

Balmond’s piece, “The Lens,” honors Black Hawk Mini Park’s significance as a communal space for formal and informal gathering, performance, and protest.  A circular pattern of seating within the park creates an amphitheater setting complete with a rostrum for public speaking.  Designed to be interactive and playful, the 30 foot circular disc with its center of twisting louvers functions like an opening and closing “eye”.  Through its lens, the changing light of the day and seasons are captured and refracted onto the surrounding visitors and buildings.  During the daylight hours, the sun’s rays throw shadows of the disc’s form, creating moving circles across the park’s paving stones. At night, an arc of colored light embedded in the disc projects onto the metal blades, reflecting outward. The animation of the louvers sliding geometry enhances a sense of theatre that is integral to the history and character of the Pedestrian Mall – a space that for many defines the Iowa City experience.

For more information, contact Marcia Bollinger, Iowa City Public Art Coordinator at 319-356-5237 or

Artist Rendering of Proposed Project

Click any image below to view a very large (8331 x 4167 – 12MB) rendering of that image.