Arlington Boulevard

Submitted by Vicki Scuri

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Project

Client: Arlington County

Location: Arlington, United States

Completion date: 2014

Artwork budget: $800,000

Project Team

Client

Deirdre Ehlen

Arlington County

Client

Angela Adams

Arlington County

Architect

James Kawchak

AECOM

Art Consultant

Jennifer Riddell

National Gallery of Art

Art Consultant

Kelly Cornell

Client

Jitender Babra

VDOT

Architect

Michael Hooshangi

AECOM

Artist

Alexandr Polzin

Overview

Native redbud trees inspire this work. The heart-shaped leaf patterns and their seed pods add form and texture to concrete MSE walls at two city entryway bridges: Courthouse Road and 10th Street. Bridge spans are enhanced with laser-cut leaf patterned grills fabricated in weathering steel. These are LED back illuminated with programmable color, reflecting sky tones, transitioning hues over a fifteen-minute loop, to provide interest, movement and memorable landmarks at the entries to Arlington.

Goals

The goals for this project are to mark the city entryways for Arlington, promoting sense of place, beauty and ease of the driving experience along Arlington Boulevard. This is one of the first Public Art Projects commissioned for infrastructure in Arlington County. It is a model project for future development, incorporating civic identity, native landscape and LED lighting, seamlessly integrated into the structure and site. The work is influenced by neighboring Washington DC, with its classical sculptures and buildings. While we wanted to reference these influences at the site, it is our intention to update the aesthetics, reflecting culture now. We have done this by using technology to create compelling contemporary aesthetics, using the CNC router, laser cutting and programmable LED lighting. A colleague commented that the illuminated grills are reminiscent of Tiffany glass. This is exactly the response we hoped would happen. An Arlington resident commented: Ms. Scuri – Your work in Arlington is beautiful. Thank you. It's a soothing tonic in what can only otherwise be called a grueling and thankless commute home-until now. It just made me smile when I saw it. This is what public art should do.” – Arlington Citizen See: http://www.arlnow.com/2014/10/27/art-installation-lights-up-route-50/

Process

The collaborative process for this project was intense and arduous, as no one at Arlington County or at VDOT had done a project like this previously. The learning curve was steep and the design and construction process was lengthy, exceeding ten years, with an economic downturn during mid-construction. Still, with the dedication of my client, Arlington County, and my own experience and resilience to meet challenges with determination and optimism, we were able to succeed despite the many setbacks, delays, changes of personnel and various obstacles that blocked our path. We succeeded because of a strong commitment from Arlington County to stay with this project despite all of the bureaucracy between the work and us. Persistence of vision is key. I credit Arlington County, VDOT and AECOM, our engineering prime, for their patience in learning how to work together and achieve success. Also, I credit a a team of women who worked at Arlington County, who each devoted themselves to guiding this project through its long development: Angela Adams, Deirdre Ehlen, Kelly Cornell, Jennifer Riddell, Welmoed Laanstra, and others. Without the dogged persistence of many people, this graceful and successful project could not be built.