Summer in the city was all about long afternoons spent daydreaming about faraway tropical islands, infinity pools, or cabins on a lake. Some lucky city-dwellers weren’t even required to leave town this summer, thanks to some incredible public urban artworks turning parks and venues into true oases and infusing the city with wonder. We look back at this year’s best installations.

The Parthenon of Books, Kassel, Germany

If you wanted to experience a bit of Athens without the scorching heat this summer, you should have headed over to the German town of Kassel where a full-size replica of the Parthenon was installed. There was one small catch – instead of marble, it was made out of banned books.

A travelling installation, the piece was recreated by Argentinian artist Marta Minujín in Kassel for art fair documenta 14. The pillars of the lofty structure contained books banned in countries around the world.

Pillars covered in forbidden literature.
Foto: Roman Maerz

No Such Things Grow Here, Munich, Germany

This tongue-in-cheek project funded by the city of Munich brought a taste of tropical paradise to otherwise austere public squares for one month.

Entitled “No Such Things Grow Here” the various works installed by artist Susi Gelb brought non-native plants like palm and banana trees to three public squares in the hopes of prompting visitors to explore the city with new eyes. In any case, the project was enjoyable at face value: the rare pleasure of sitting underneath a palm tree in the heart of Munich.

Descension, Brooklyn, USA

From visionary artist Anish Kapoor comes Descension: a (seemingly) infinite whirlpool. The piece, which appears in its third iteration, is positioned parallel to Brooklyn’s East River, echoing and augmenting the water.

The installation was originally created to resemble a black hole, but was adapted for the location to include only natural water.

Can this be real? You bet.
Photo: James Ewing
The giant whirlpool will make you stop and stare.
Photo: James Ewing

Subterranean cisterne, Copenhagen, Denmark

For those in search of something off the beaten path, check underneath the streets of Copenhagen for Hiroshi Sambuichi’s subterranean cisterne installation. Once a collective of clean drinking water for the city’s residents, the space has since been transformed into an art space which is located underneath the popular Søndermarken park.

Sambuichi’s work not only captures and reflects the natural environment, but also celebrates 150 years of diplomacy between Denmark and Japan.

An impressive art space underneath the city.
Photo: Jens Markus Lindhe, www.cisternerne.dk

Pinwheel Flower Garden, Brooklyn, USA

The charming installation of pinwheels in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park unfolded its full magic upon closer inspection. The playful piece resembled a field of brilliant yellow flowers.

In honor of Prospect Park’s 150 year anniversary, the project invited a community of locals and visitors to submit artworks. The prints were then folded into pinwheels, all of them came in bright yellow on the outside. The collaborative installation was on view from August 12th to 25th and included 7,000 pinwheels.

A community artwork: pinwheels in Prospect Garden.
Photo: Area4 Amanda Gentile

Open House, New York City, USA

For those who never had the chance to stroll through an exquisite Victorian-style villa, Liz Glynn’s Open House installation made it possible – on a New York City sidewalk.

Comprised of various chairs and entryways installed in the South East side of Central Park, the piece cleverly critiqued class issues in public space by presenting antique luxury furniture … in concrete.

Victorian furniture – made of concrete.
Photo: James Ewing, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY

Support, Venice, Italy

If you’ve spotted a pair of giant hands rising out of the water in Venice, Italy, don’t worry – it’s not a pasta-hungry sea monster but rather a sculpture by Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn.

The piece, titled “Support,” highlights the rising sea levels that threaten the city of Venice where the Biennal arts festival takes place. Striking in scale, the hands reach up to the third floor of the Ca’Sagrado Hotel as if to prop up the city from the deep.

Giant hands in Venice.
Photo: Lorenzo Quinn 2017
The sculpture seems to support the building.
Photo: Lorenzo Quinn 2017