Lighting the Way

Submitted by Alex Hirsch

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Client: Southern Oregon University and State of Oregon

Location: Ashland, OR, United States

Completion date: 2013

Artwork budget: $38,000

Project Team

Industry Resource

Peter Kaufmann

Peters Glass

Artist

Alex Hirsch

Architect

David Wilkerson

Ogden Roemer Wilkerson Architecture

Public Art Agent

Saralyn Hilde

Oregon Arts Commission

Overview

For this public art project, the committee suggested several potential sites within the historic Churchill Hall, the original campus building at Southern Oregon University. I chose to create two sets of windows that would complement one another, one for each stairwell. Each window measures 7.5’ tall x 2.25’ wide. Their beauty and elegant forms can be enjoyed from any position in the stairwell and from a well-trafficked path outside.

Goals

My goal was to integrate contemporary techniques and concepts within the structure of this 86-year-old building in way that would endure for the next 100 years. The surface treatments for the site had already been determined by the architecture firm during the renovation process, and my budget did not allow for new windows. Thus, the challenge was to create something that would harmonize with those earlier decisions and use the existing architectural elements.

Process

I began my part of the collaboration by getting a feeling for the priorities of the selection committee before I created my proposal. I spent time on campus and in town assessing the spirit of the university. Through discussion with the architect, I came to understand that the windows ought not be switched out; therefore, I worked with my fabricator to determine a means of installing glass panels parallel to the existing windows in a way that would allow for circulation of air and ease of cleaning. Further collaboration took place with the fabrication studio to develop the best colors and paint handling for my imagery.

Additional Information

Lighting the Way creates an environment that calms and centers the viewer. During the day, the painted sky imagery and dot pattern overlay views onto the campus. They also project changing patterns on the walls, floor, and stairs depending on natural conditions. When seen at night, the illuminated windows provide the campus with color and additional opportunities for contemplation. The artwork’s appearance shifts with the viewer’s position, the sun’s position, the time of day, the weather, and the season. The work elicits curiosity and wonder from viewers as they move through the demands and pleasures of their day.