Vying for City Approval

It’s terrifying but it’s also fun.
— Jim Hubbell

We have been anticipating today nervously — it’s time to seek the approval of Yantai University’s administration as well as Yantai city officials. Flanking Jim, we — students and leaders alike — walk into a large rectangular conference room.In its center sits a large table surrounded by cherry-wood and black-leather chairs (we notice green and white bar codes centered on the back of each seat as we select our own). The far wall is made of a grid of blue-framed windows. Other walls are white-painted bricks.

Our final drawings, plans, design details, and sections are artfully hung on one entire wall, residing under the only brightly colored element in the room—a red banner displaying Chinese characters. The banner does not detract from our design: instead it seems to say, “Look here! Look at all of this beauty just beneath me.”

We are ready.

We have prepared for this moment since arriving in Yantai. We have completed countless drawings and designs, have carved tiles and models, held myriad discussions and brainstorms. Wee surround Jim and Kyle, all of us eager to present our park to the City of Yantai for approval.

City officials and university masters trickle into the room until everyone takes his or her seat. The atmosphere in the room feels beautiful and powerful,as if this meeting of minds has become a gathering of  mountains that have opinions.

Jim begins.. He lights up the meeting as he speaks of his awe and gratitude to the city, university, students, and leaders involved. He shares his belief that this is one of the more beautiful and detailed parks Pacific Rim Park  will have built to date. We are “acting as artists,” he concludes.

Then Kyle Bergman, our lead organizer, launches into a detailed, thorough, and persuasive explanation of the park’s design and structure. He moves through the presentation with ease, pausing only to allow the translator to communicate.

Now it’s time for the professors and officials to respond. What will happen? We all wonder.  

The head of the Yantai Bureau of Foreign Affairs is the first to speak. He expresses his joy in the design and acknowledges the hard work of all involved. He shares his observation that we may have all come here for different reasons, but we now have a united vision.

“The model is very beautiful,” he says.  “The model and the park are art that reflects the reality of Yantai.” He informs us that he is honored to be involved in this project.

Then Professor Yang Lan says she is ecstatic that the park will respect the natural forest; be one with it instead of destructive, and that “the park will grow from the ground and with time.”  She also believes the park poetically harnesses the spirit and stories of Yantai through art and architecture, and that the design “continues telling the story of Yantai, one that started long ago.”

However, this meeting of minds is not without questions and opinions. First, city and university representatives voice major concerns as to whether or not the park can survive wind, water, and blowing sand. Jim and Kyle assure all  concerned that the structure its materials have been selected with the aforementioned elements in mind.

Then Professor Lan informs us that “the Phoenix must fly.” She cites an old Chinese saying: “A falling Phoenix is worse than a chicken.” We tell her that we will make sure to bear this in mind, for we want a Phoenix and not a pigeon for peace, and certainly not a chicken.

After all questions and concerns have been  explained and weighed, they express their gratitude for the thorough design, stating that their opinions are just suggestions and that the final decisions are for Jim and our team to make.Their approval seems to come too easily, but we guess this is the sort of alignment that a lot of hard work and a bit of magic can bring about.

To celebrate this moment, Kyle brings a small bronze  sculpture, created by Jim, to the table. He informs the city officials that Pacific Rim Park wants to  loan this artwork to the city. Jim titled the sculpture Tentative Meeting — perfect for the moment at hand. He asks Yantai to cherish and protect it until the time comes  to gift it onward, like passing the Olympic torch, to the next city that joins the Pacific Rim Park family.

Now the manual labor of actually building the park begins, but we leave the room knowing that  the Yantai park will be a unique addition to an existing string of sister pearl cities around the Pacific Rim a growing, lustrous string indeed!