The UA mall at present looks more like an archaeological dig than urban landscaping, being that it's one gigantic concrete-and-steel filled hole garnished with cautionary orange netting and chain link fencing. But less than a year ago its palm-lined lawns, anchored at each end by a mature cactus garden, marked the main artery through the UA campus. There's still plenty of lawn, perennial flower beds and shady lanes to stroll near the west entrance, however. The Fine Arts Oasis gets our vote for its wide open space, Sonoran plant palette, and a sea of boulder-sized river rock that renders even the tallest human a Lilliputian by contrast. An outdoor installation of color, shape and texture, it's a collaborative collusion of art, architecture, lighting and xeriscape design that marks a nice contrast to the rest of the university's thirsty landscape.
LOOSE CHANGE: Have you driven down South Fourth Avenue in the past six months? Traffic was a bear while the winding South Tucson thoroughfare was under construction, but its new facelift is well worth the inconvenience. Tile mosaics abound on every flower pot, wall surface and bus bench; adobe arches cast some much-needed shade on widened sidewalks, as do strapping young mesquites that will grow into shady canopies in no time. But the best part is that they've planted an array of flowering desert shrubs that puts the City of Tucson's predictable pattern of oleander, verbena and red bird of paradise to shame. Here's a model that celebrates local materials and craftsmanship with unabashed exuberance, in this case adding dramatic color and softness to what used to be a denuded commercial/industrial strip.