Decorative Bridge Railings at King Commons – Part I

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The much-anticipated artistic bridge rails have finally been installed on three bridges at King Commons! These beautiful railings were designed and forged by a talented and creative team of artists at the Metal Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. The work was commissioned early in 2017 after a selection committee gathered to review qualifications of more than 40 project applicants. The proposal submitted by Jim Masterson and his colleagues was accepted and the magic began.

The railing designs were largely based on several themes that are interwoven throughout the park at King Commons, which relate to conservation, pollination, and storm water mitigation. The major theme represented by the railings is pollination, as designer Kacy Ganley explains that a portion of the railing design is “emulating the flight of the bee”. Hand forged native flowers add an additional dimension of color and artistic flair to the railing design, with milkweed, iris, and coneflowers included in many of the railing sections.

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The preliminary sketches for the railings reveal four bees in the design, flying across the length of the segment. Native flora is represented in the middle section (this sketch depicts the milkweed flower).

The theme of pollination aligns with the current “What’s the Buzz” program, a partnership between the Johnson City community and East Tennessee State University which focuses on the promotion and development of pollinator-friendly public spaces. Native plants like those included in the railing design are vital to the survival of bees and other pollinators, and are especially important as pollinators are experiencing a decline in numbers due to pesticide use, habitat loss, climate change, and other factors.

The bright blue color of the railings is representative of the network of waterways in the area and the flood mitigation efforts that were undertaken through the construction of King Commons. Ganley tells us that the color also emulates similar shades of blue that were utilized in Ian Brownlee’s mural at King Commons, providing a sense of cohesiveness throughout the artistic elements in the park.

The process leading up to installation was long but rewarding. Fortunately, the Metal Museum kept us posted on progress along the way, allowing us to get an inside peek at the railing’s construction. And their photographs really tell the story!

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Rows of pickets are lined up after forming.
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The railing begins to take shape…do you see the bumblebee?
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A stack of  coneflowers prior to assembly.
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Life-like, feathery iris await their painting job.
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Getting the milkweed flowers just right.
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A fully assembled railing segment showcases the milkweed flower.

We’ll be bringing you more on the railings in our next post along with photos of the completed bridge rails in their permanent locations at King Commons, so check back with us soon!

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