Client: City of Austin Art in Public Places Program, Northwest Recreation Center
Location: Austin, TX, United States
Completion date: 2012
Artwork budget: $47,000
Earl Swisher, AIA
Jill Bedgood, artist
The Recreation Center provides a communal space for social interaction & fellowship, educational & recreational activities for people of all ages, offering citizens wtih common interests a place to communicate mentally and physically. Diverse activities–yoga & basketball, sewing & kite flying, weight lifting & chess, & the making of charm bracelets–informed the images on the discs & the art. My own childhood charm bracelet contains a set of memories reminding me of people & associations in my life. “Community Screen” links together these charms to create the connection of shared interests that form our personal & communal experiences.
The Northwest Recreation Center in Austin was renovated to repair maintenance issues and provide more space for activities. The HVAC intake vents were originally located in the front of the building; the public walked over the grates (recessed in the walkway) to enter the main door. The Lawrence Group relocated the entrance; however, the vents could not be moved needing to continue functioning as the HVAC venting system for the building. Air flow had to be maintained. Further, large support columns in front of the vents could not be removed. This zone could not be completely enclosed and was centrally located to the west of the main entrance on the front of the building. The dilemma: what would allow air flow for the HVAC system, allow the structural supports to remain, be unified with the aesthetics of the building, provide interest, be relevant to the concept of recreation, and be visible from the street.
The art-screen allows for air flow and prevents the public access to the venting system. Bays-openings of specific and varied dimensions were constructed between the support pillars. The art images provide visual information of the building's identity. Architectural and aesthetic problems solved.
The architects desired some kind of screening system or wall to hide the vent system and support columns. The art provided the solution. The artist's original concept was to create an exterior room in the front of the building for people to congregate, which then evolved into designing a hearth wall using glass bricks with images. Glass breakage was a concern; metal was the answer. The venting system issue was discussed and the disc screen conceived. Aluminum was chosen for the discs to complement the materials used by the architectural firm; the team chose the dark green color for the disc images, as well as the dimensions and placement of the bays. The firm provided the architectural drawings and construction of the bays, angled aluminum for connecting the art to the wall, and lighting. The artist worked with the community-- the public--to develop the images. Input forms that allowed space for drawing and writing about the definition of community were distributed & returned to the artist. 96 unique images were created by the artist, including the word "community" in many languages, definition of community & recreation, & silhouette drawings of objects that reference the activities.
The drawings were scanned, stencils made to etch and paint the images onto the 12 inch diameter aluminum discs. Stainless steel split rings were threaded through the four holes in the discs to link them together. Artist installed the art. When the wind blows, the connected discs create a sound reminiscent of sail boats clanking like wind chimes. I can provide a CD of a power point presentation of all 96 images. my website: www.jillbedgood.com