Client: Oklahoma City Municipal Courts Building
Location: Oklahoma City, OK, United States
Completion date: 2019
Artwork budget: $114,000
Public Art Agent
Oklahoma City Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs
Oklahoma City Municipal Courts Building
Symbolic platforms evoke individuals within societal conflicts, located in the shadow of a new Municipal Court Building. This metaphoric sitework, symbolizing and articulating the individual and communal significance of the Court, engages people within a grouping of experiential spaces. Each platform (a sort of soapbox) within the sitework represents two societal dualities – individual/ community and values/ conflicts. Sculptural units incorporate shield-like forms that enclose each platform – each form bisects a word that signifies primal social principles – JUSTICE, DIGNITY, CIVILITY, etc. These primary words become legible when viewed on-axis; when viewed off-axis, the words are fragmented and abstract. Viewers/ users can step up and be surrounded by secondary inscriptions – legal strictures, social conflicts, and court resolutions. Materials: Galvanized steel, aluminum with sandblasted and water-jet cut inscriptions. Dimensions: 28’-0”W x 10’-0”H x 32’-0”D (overall).
The general objective for this public art project was to activate the plaza hardscape. The available site – a plaza in front of the Court – was visually separated from the Court Building by a small grove of trees, so the sitework is oriented to the street intersection. Six platforms are arrayed within the plaza – each on a different axis – and pedestrians approach from all directions. The units of the sitework are scaled to relate to the unit size and patterning of the large plaza pavers as well as their coloration. The exterior surfaces of the inscribed aluminum panels are neutral and somber, while the interior surfaces within the individual experiential spaces are somewhat more chromatic than the architectural palette, to signify kinetic individual and societal turmoil and to maintain vibrancy, even after some anticipated long-term fading.
This project resulted from a national RFQ – a competition that required finalists to present a fully fleshed out proposal for a sitework – and the built form is very much like the proposal, with some changes. The original intent was to integrate these units at ground level, but the as-built location of drainage lines beneath the plaza were not well documented, resulting in some degree of locational uncertainty. So, to minimize foundations, we lifted-up the art units onto platforms. It actually created a stronger experiential quality – the soapbox-like symbolism felt more empowered. Continuing our initial conversation with the selection committee, we worked with judicial staff to build our understanding of the court: the domain of municipal laws; court processes and artifacts; social conflicts and needs; and individual outcomes. Metaphoric taxonomies of words were compiled, reviewed and selected for inscription on the surfaces of all the artforms. To implement the sitework, ArtForm, a local company, fabricated and installed the artwork components on site. Artwerx, a company based in Baton Rouge, sandblasted inscriptions on site. Project managers from the Oklahoma City Percent-for-Arts Program shepherded the project through municipal reviews and coordination with the architects.
This project involved the usual levels of negotiation, compromise, and frustration. We have yet to properly photograph the sitework, but we hope these images provided by the City convey its final presence within the milieu of Oklahoma City.