The old judicial building on East Main Street – vacant since the new courthouse opened next to the jail in 2013 – is being renovated into County Administration Building II.
It’s not an exciting name, but it could include some elements to attract people not already there on county business.
Public art, restaurants and a plaza are in the works.
The Durham County commissioners got a preview of the proposed art Monday. Commissioner Ellen Reckhow said it would have been nice to have broader public input, citing the city’s call for public art submissions for the new Durham Police Department headquarters under construction. The artist team for the Administration Building II public art is David Wilson and Stacy Utley.
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“Particularly given the controversy with our statue outside, I think it’s really important it has gone through more of a public process,” Reckhow said.
Commissioners meet in the 101-year-old county admistration building, where protesters toppled a Confederate soldier statue in August.
Also on the lawn are other war memorials, including the World War I memorial which lists Durham’s war dead, with white soldiers first, then African-American soldiers separately at the bottom. Former City Council member Eddie Davis has proposed an addition that explains the history and context of the monument, as well as a new one that includes all the names together. Because of state law, the county is not allowed to remove and replace the monument.
Revamping the plaza for that building is part of the overall project. It will be renamed Durham County Administration Building I, and the plaza will be designed to flow with Administration Building II across the street.
Renovation and construction on the $47 million Administration Building II is 60 percent finished. O’Brien Atkins is the architectural firm for this project and the police headquarters, which will also open in 2018. Administration Building II will include two retail spaces on the first floor on either side of the lobby.
Looks ‘like a weapon’
Reckhow said she would prefer to see public art with “more of a unifying feeling for the community.”
“My first reaction when I saw this is it almost looked like a weapon to me,” she said. “It looks hard and offensive in the sense of reminding me of a spear. It doesn’t look inviting.”
Commissioner Brenda Howerton said the design “just doesn’t get to what it is we are trying to promote.”
However because the county is still in the design stage, the proposed art is just that: a proposal. It was approved by the county’s Public Art Committee in June.
“We need a policy around public art, and then we wouldn’t be in this situation,” said Commissioner Heidi Carter. She said she liked that the design looks like bull horns and would be illuminated at night. “But it needs to be about community reaction,” she said.
Commissioner Vice Chair James Hill said he likes it, but whether commissioners like it or not, they should have seen the design sooner.
The budget for the public art is $100,000.
Commissioners Chair Wendy Jacobs said that given the city’s inclusive process for public art design, “this may be one area the staff could look at where we partner with the city and come up with some kind of agreement that would help us with this.”
Jacobs asked county staff to come back to the commissioners with an update on the proposed public art design after getting more public input.
What do you think?
Tell us what you think of the proposed art for the remodeled judicial building at firstname.lastname@example.org