Client: Durham County
Location: Durham, NC, United States
Completion date: 2022
Artwork budget: $700,000
Design and Engineering
Client perspective, Project mgmt,
We believe this installation to be the largest anamorphic architectural installation in the world. Durham, NC needed to screen a 10,000sqft elevation of a new parking garage at the end of the downtown Main Street corridor. With the help of an architect/engineering firm local to the project site, Uriah Bueller and Mike Schock designed a series of aluminum panels and its anodized structural support system to create a ventilated screen that articulate three-dimensionally across the vertical surface of the building. It has two intentional sightlines where the planes of the panels align to create images of three summer trees from one end of the installation and three different winter trees from the other end of the structure, all trees being native to the Durham geography. The panels are finished in a patina powdercoat that mimics verdigris copper, but the reason for the content of the artwork is worth unpacking.
The call for entry asked for a permanent, low-maintenance art screen to meet local vehicle screening code while allowing enough airflow to ventilate the space from carbon monoxide fumes. These two requirements of visual opacity and material open percentage were mutually exclusive of each other, causing some serious brainstorming and several design iterations. Being able to engineer while designing was a big advantage in development. The flexing of the parking decks added movement between components as yet another requirement to the metal wall-mounted sculpture. The art is clearly a functional, integral part of the architecture, but it still needed to consider the culture and needs of the community.
The design process began with gathering community input while structural design requirements were simultaneously gathered for review. There was a lot of information, many requests, demands, and even complaints from past projects to consider. The people in the area are quite polarized in their perspectives, but the growing economy and grass-roots movements seemed to give the community hope that it had the potential to go in the right direction. Many talked about the need for healing from the issues compiled over the past century. Our proposal for this piece focused on using the archetypal elements of nature and time as the dependable anchors that we can hold onto. And using the unique native flora of the region made the statement personal.
Time was used in the piece in two ways. First, and similar to other installations we’ve done, the way the piece filters sunlight across the time of day and year changes and makes the interior of the space feel different and unique. Secondly, it takes time to walk from one intended perspective to see the three summer trees to the other end to see the three winter trees. The time it takes to see the entire piece, and time has a way of healing if we are ready to begin.
The 3D geometry of the panels that allowed for the proper ventilation while providing enough of a visual barrier also gave us a large canvas to use for the art. Using a more modular-crystalline pattern as the field pattern, we felt free to design with more continuous-organic shapes and large forms that bridge over several panels. The expanse of the long garage and the narrow, tree-lined street just off Main did not give the viewer a perpendicular viewing angle, so all aspects of this project came together and seems to make our approach work for the space.