How to Fill a Vacant Lot in Provo

On Thanksgiving day I went on a walk downtown with several family members. When we passed the vacant lot I mentioned in this post, we discovered that it had become the home of several large wooden spools. Then, a few days after I wrote this post about a similar lot in Salt Lake City, my friend Josh Yost sent me a couple of great pictures of the spools.

Spools in a vacant lot on Center Street.

Another view of the spools.

When my family and I happened on these spools, we weren’t sure what to make of them. Were they just discarded trash? Were they a guerrilla art installation? Could we mess with them without getting in trouble?

Apparently we could, because we did. Laura even tried to walk on one while it was rolling, sort of like a cartoon character.

More importantly, these simple additions show how easy it is to draw people into a space and make it interactive. I’m not sure if this was intended as art. And either way it’s less visually arresting than the piece in the Salt Lake lot.

But it’s also more interactive. While the Salt Lake example invites users to walk through it and maybe touch it, this is all about moving things around. It’s like a giant set of wooden blocks for adults (and kids). And ultimately, it took a relatively ugly spot and made it a place for human interaction and exploration, which is really the goal of any public space.

That’s not to say this is suddenly a beautiful spot. It’s not. And adding discarded spools is not generally going to solve the world’s placemaking challenges. But despite these shortcomings this site shows how little additions to a space can make a big difference.


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