Client: Grays Harbor College
Location: Aberdeen, WA, United States
Completion date: 2015
Artwork budget: $132,000
Jill Anholt Studio Inc.
“Clearing” is inspired by the forest of old growth Douglas Fir trees that once existed where the new campus building is now located. The artwork proposes the “clearing” of one of the majestic trees, leaving in place the memory of light filtering through its delicate limbs towering above and the mark of the rings of its trunk below. Situated within a 15′ diameter skylight located at the center of the lobby of the new Gene Schermer Instructional Building on the Grays Harbor College Campus, the work forms a strong gathering space for students who attend classes there. “Clearing” is created from a series of colored glass pieces and stainless steel tubes suspended within the skylight, as well as embedded aluminum elements in the terrazzo floor below. Shifting colors and shadows resulting from the artworks interaction with natural sunlight and integrated lighting elements at night result in its transformation throughout the day and the seasons, creating a dynamic experience that is visible from within the building as well as the inhabitable landscape of the roof above.
The client and design team determined that artwork should be integrated into the building at the very beginning of the project. The artist was brought onto the team during the early stages of design development when the general planning and forms of the building were determined but while the details were still being developed. The design team, client and artist all felt that integrated artwork had the potential to bring a meaningful focal point to the building that could engage students and visitors in the contextual narrative of the school. For this reason, the artist identified the large central skylight as being the location with the most potential for art integration and multi-level student engagement. The skylight is a unique spatial element that is experienced by visitors both from outside (where it occupies a landscaped, publically accessible roof plaza) and inside (as a welcoming element visible from the building's entrance and located in the center of its largest gathering space). The concept and form of the artwork conceived by the artist helped inform the details and experience of the surrounding spaces in the building including the design of the floor and lighting during design development.
The artist met with the design team and client on site at the onset of the design process. The artist and architects exchanged drawings and models through out to ensure that the design of the artwork would be integrated seamlessly into the overall building. At design completion, the artwork drawings were included in the construction documents so that the contractor could understand how the artwork was to be integrated with the overall building construction. As a result, the attachment hardware for the artwork was installed by the skylight contractor such that it was completely integrated and almost invisible within the skylight. Lighting for the artwork was likewise integrated during the construction of the skylight and artistic elements supplied by the artist were integrated into the terrazzo floor during its construction. The overall effect is a building and artwork that together offer a cohesive and layered multi-sensory experience for the viewer that is unexpected and extraordinary.