It’s impossible to overstate art’s ability to enrich and enliven our public spaces.

While so many architects and planners do their best to ensure that cities are aesthetically pleasing and as accessible as possible, the role of the artist in the urban landscape is to inject some much-needed playfulness into the at times drab and utility-focused environment.

We saw a lot of interesting, fun and thought-provoking public art in 2013 and compiled some of our favorites in the list below. Enjoy!

The house with the sliding facade

melting-house Photo: Alex Chinneck

A double take inducing piece of public art popped up in a seaside town in South East England this year. Titled “From The Knees Of My Nose To The Belly Of My Toes,” this house whose facade appears to be sliding off was created by Lond0n-based artist Alex Chinneck. We loved Chinneck’s work so much that we devoted a second story to his upside down building piece in London (below).

upside-down-building Photo: Alex Chinneck

Kudos to the artist for reclaiming derelict buildings to create compelling pieces of art for everyone to enjoy.

The stairway to heaven

Diminish-and-Ascend Photo: William Patino

Artist David McCracken created this mind-bending work for the annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibit in Bondi, Australia. As we wrote back in November, the piece, titled “Diminish and Ascend” uses an optical illusion to achieve its infinite effect. Each step is smaller than the one preceding it.

Phantom limbs

THIRST-1024x640 Photo:

This ghostly white tree was part of a large scale temporary art installation in Austin, Texas meant to encourage discussion about water scarcity. The installation, titled THIRST, was created by the art collective Women & Their Work.

Giant rubber duck makes a splash

florentijn-hoffman-duck Photo:

A 54 foot rubber duck was spotted floating in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour in the spring and then again in Pittsburgh’s Allegheny River in the fall. The work of Dutch artist Florentijn Hoffman, the duck will likely turn up in more bodies of water in 2014, so be on the look out!

Bad dog

bad dog Photo: Orange County Register

A little on the crude side, but good public art doesn’t always need to be tasteful. Artist Richard Jackson erected this sculpture of a dog doing its business on the side of the Orange County Museum of Art to accompany his career retrospective “Richard Jackson: Ain’t Painting a Pain.”

The world’s tallest mural

The world’s tallest mural was unveiled in Toronto in September. The mural, which stands 29 stories on the side of an apartment building, was created by Jason Rouleau and Ryan Dineen of the Toronto Muralists, along with the help of hundreds of community members.

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