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Lauren Gorla


Atlanta artist Tristan al-Haddad makes a statement on healthy cities at MODA

Tristan al-Haddad
Photograph courtesy of Tristan al-Haddad

“Creator extraordinaire—with an exclamation point!” That’s how artist Tristan al-Haddad describes himself. His most recent work for the Museum of Design Atlanta is “Metro-Poly,” a large sculpture made primarily of steel beams welded into one continuous track and covered in polymer grid sheets representing the layout of a city. Nearby sit bright green blocks etched with verbs like “drive,” “live,” and “promote”; viewers are encouraged to group them on the grid. The interactive nature of the piece is designed to spark ideas of what a “healthy city” means.

 “Metro-Poly” is part of a larger MODA exhibit, “Design for Healthy Living” (through August 16), which highlights how structures and neighborhoods across the U.S. can promote better well-being among residents. In a recent sit-down with al-Haddad, we discussed the development of the piece, how it relates to the city of Atlanta, and what “creator extraordinaire” really means.

What was the inspiration for this new piece?
MODA came to me, and they said they wanted to do this show about health and the city and what does all that mean. The piece, which we’re calling Metro-poly, is a play on words. Obviously there’s polis, which in Greek means “the city,” but also there’s this play on monopoly, this idea of a game space, because cities are really kind of about a gaming condition where it’s about chance and choice. And what makes cities fun is this kind of constant animation, constant interaction.

Photograph by Bethany Legg

This exhibit is all about healthful living in city design. How does your artwork fit in with that?
For me, health wasn’t purely an idea about the body’s health; it’s also about the mental and emotional health of being engaged and having an active mind. And so I think it’s really all about the interactive [nature of the piece] that allows us to imagine how we can constantly recreate the city.

The exhibit also focuses on the BeltLine. How does your work reflect that kind of project?
In some ways I would say it’s a reflection on the idea of the BeltLine as something that is continuous, connected. And the BeltLine really is one of the most exciting projects in the city right now because of the way in which it’s gonna create connectivity across all these different spaces.

You’re also a professor at Georgia Tech. Does that translate into your work as an artist?
No question about it. I like to distinguish as little as possible [between] the different domains of architecture, art, academia. I see those three domains as informing each other, so they’re very symbiotic. I learn as much from the students as they learn from me.

You said you prefer to call yourself a “creator extraordinaire” rather than an artist or an architect. Why is that?
It’s a little cheeky, but you gotta have a sense of humor. I take what I do very seriously, but you gotta have humor in design, in art, in academia, in research, in life.

14 ways to watch Fourth of July fireworks in Atlanta

Whether you spend your Independence Day watching fireworks with the family or boozing it up with your pals, Atlanta offers multiple events for a great night out.

Family fun and fireworks
Centennial Park’s 4th of July Celebration
7/4; Gates open: 6 p.m.; Fireworks: 9 p.m.
Hop on MARTA and head to Centennial Olympic Park for the annual fireworks show. This year features the United States Air Force Band of the West to round out the Independence Day celebration.

Georgia Aquarium’s Red, White & View
7/4; 7:30 p.m.
If you want to get up high for the Centennial fireworks, try scouting a spot on the roof of the aquarium’s parking garage. Pack a cooler and bring your family before the fireworks display for games and desserts. You can purchase advance tickets to skip the line and get the best rooftop spot.

Lenox Square’s Legendary 4th of July
7/4; 6 p.m.
For music lovers, catch Party on the Moon at Lenox Square with Gump Fiction opening at 6 p.m.

Mall of Georgia Star Spangled Fourth
7/4; 5 p.m.
Head to the Mall of Georgia’s 13th annual celebration early for live music, inflatables for the kids, and plenty of food vendors.

Stone Mountain’s Fantastic Fourth Celebration
7/2-7/5; Lasershow and fireworks: 9:30 p.m.
Stone Mountain is famous for its laser show, but visit during the weekend of the Fourth for an added fireworks show. Visitors on July 2 can catch a performance by American Authors and Rachel Platten for an added bang.

Day-long celebrations
2015 AJC Peachtree Road Race
Cheering on the runners in the world’s largest 10k, which starts in Buckhead and ends in Piedmont Park, is as much an Atlanta tradition as running the race itself.

East Point Georgia’s Salute to the Red, White & Blue
7/4; 3 p.m.– 11 p.m. (fireworks start around 9:30 p.m.)
This 4th of July celebration has everything—beer; funnel cakes; live music; and, oh yeah, fireworks. The summer carnival in downtown East Point runs from July 1–4 so there’s plenty of time to stuff your face with fair food.

Marietta’s Fourth in the Park Celebration
7/4; Parade: 10 a.m.; Fireworks: begin at dark
If you want a parade with your fireworks show, the celebration on the Marietta Square is your destination. The all-day affair begins with the parade featuring local marching bands and beauty queens at 10 a.m. and continues on throughout the day until the big display at dark.

For boozy fun
Red, White and Brews Pub Crawl
7/3; 7 p.m.
Starting at Buckhead’s Hangovers and finishing wherever you start spilling your drink, enjoy a night of red- and blue-themed drinks and live music. Don’t forget to purchase your ticket beforehand to save a few bucks.

Red White & Booze
7/4; 7:30 p.m.– 11:30 p.m.
Throw on your best red, white, or blue attire and check out the fireworks up-close from this rooftop party at Ventanas downtown. Plan on buying your ticket beforehand so you don’t get left at the door of this boozy bash.

Whiskey Blue Atlanta’s Fourth of July Extravaganza
7/4; 5 p.m.
Try a signature cocktail and watch the Lenox Square fireworks from the rooftop of W Atlanta in Buckhead. The panoramic views will make for the perfect background for your #happyFourthyall Instagram post.

Atlanta Motor Speedway
Courtesy of Tom Francisco/Speedpics.net

And for the sports fans
Friday Night Drags & Show-n-Shine Fireworks Night
7/3; 6 p.m.
Loud engines and even louder fireworks—this Atlanta Motor Speedway event is so American that afterward you’ll be humming “The Star-Spangled Banner” in your sleep.

Gwinnett Braves vs. Charlotte Knights
7/4; 7:05 p.m.
What’s more American than fireworks and a baseball game?

Atlanta Braves vs. Philadelphia Phillies
And in case one baseball game isn’t enough, watch two of America’s most patriotic teams face off at Turner Field.

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