Art vs. Environment: NJ DEP to Remove Green Acres Sculpture

Recently New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection announced that it intends to remove a landscape art structure from the courtyard of its State Street headquarters in Trenton, NJ. Athena Tacha’s Green Acres sculpture was put in place when the building was completed after a competition among landscape architects.

This is a tough call. I have been walking through that courtyard since it was built. From the first day I had a serious complaint over the fact that the design did not utilize native plants from New Jersey or rocks found in this state. In addition, the courtyard was fundamentally impervious and the overall design offered no shade essentially creating a heat island.

You see, my complaint has nothing to do with the artistic design of the space. The curves of the raised beds are very nice.

Athena Tacha Green Acres DEP
A photo of the DEP Courtyard today from The Star Ledger. Tony Kurdzuk/The Star-Ledger

The problem is that the space is typical of the arrogance of the landscape architect community from that era. Put in hardscape at the expense of the living plant community. Ignore the actual environment and “improve” it with human design. Somehow there was a perception that the non-living, man-made surface or the imported plant community is superior to the living native plant community.

I applaud the DEP for looking at putting a rain garden in place with more living plants and less hard surface. If some of the elements of the art can be maintained, that’s great. If it can’t, well, there are times that mistakes, even in the name of art, must be removed.

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