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The winner of an innovative public art competition will fill an empty lot in the heart of Salt Lake City with a temporary field of composite rods, which will sway in the wind like tall grass or aspens.

Daniel Lyman says the design was inspired by watching wind blowing through a wheat field. Lyman, a student at the University of Utah College of Architecture, won the competition sponsored by the American Institute of Architects Utah's Young Architects Forum.

Lyman will insert 1,200 flexible 10-foot nylon composite rods into concrete bases in the lot next to Capitol Theatre on 200 South. Judges say the installation, expected to be completed in May, will meld architecture with public art.

"Part of my thinking was that if people are going to shows and to restaurants [downtown], it would be more fun for them to have an interactive experience with that space," says Lyman, who will also act as the construction contractor on the project.

After the building that once housed Absolute restaurant was razed to make room for Ballet West's new $32-million dance center, Salt Lake's downtown might have been blighted with another empty lot for up to two years. Instead, the AIA launched the competition for a temporary public art design that brought more than 60 entries from designers in 13 countries.

The art project is a bargain for the city, says Greg Walker, chairman of the Young Architects Forum, because it will use $36,000 that was already earmarked for landscaping the empty lot. That money will be supplemented with an additional $10,000 in city arts funding earmarked for innovative design.

"One of the things we are trying to point out is that architecture today is becoming more cross-disciplinary," Walker said. "It's about lots of people coming together with creativity in mind."

Adam Price, director of Salt Lake Art Center and a judge in the competition, found Lyman's design arresting.

"It offered the possibility of a different kind of public art in Salt Lake City," Price says. "Rather than being an object, it is an experience. There's really nothing like this in Salt Lake City right now in terms of an interactive art."

In March, Salt Lake Art Center will mount an exhibit of the designs entered in the competition.

Finalists in American Institute of Architects Utah design competition

First place • Daniel Lyman, Salt Lake City

Second place • David Brach, Hannah Vaughn and Scott Yribar, Salt Lake City, Utah

Third place • Jeff Svitak, Cardiff, Calif.