Client: City of Evanston/ Public Art Program
Location: Evanston, IL, United States
Completion date: 2015
Artwork budget: $75,000
Public Art Agent
City of Evanston Public Art Program
H.M. Witt & Company
Sherman Plaza Self-Park
Ludwik's Electric, Inc./ Chicago
The activated elevators facade of the Sherman Plaza Self-Park become a gigantic symbol-system through the motion-activation of spotlights, icons and inscriptions upon the facade and street below. The sitework encompasses the entire 12-story structure. Entering or exiting the elevators, people trigger motion-activated spotlights, highlighting large-scale pattern-icons upon the south facade. The views from within the elevators are mediated by symbolic iconographies. At ground level, passersby encounter inscriptions that are revealed by the spotlights of descending elevator cabs—words that suggest the unforeseen outcomes and impacts of ideation and creation upon individuals and society. Dimensions: 45'W x 140'H x 22'D
The primary goal of our successful proposal was to appropriate and build upon the function and inhabitation of the 12-story structure. We were most interested in the three elevators and the sky lobbies, all visible through the glass facade to viewers from below and afar. We studied the human use and inhabitation of the elevator lobby zone, developing a program of motion activated lighting, iconographies and inscriptions to activate the structure. As much as possible, we integrated the artwork onto existing surfaces---glass windows within the elevator cabs, glass fa&ccedil;ade of the sky lobbies and ground level windows and mullions. We utilized very familiar, low tech theatrical lighting fixtures and motion-activation devices to ensure that the artwork can be maintained over a long lifetime.
The structure was already built and in-use, so we worked with City of Evanston staff to develop the details and integration of the art-system into the structure. Although we had access to the original architectural plans, we worked with exact site measurements to determine the scale and locations of all artwork elements. The manager of city parking facilities was instrumental in working with our electrical contractor to provide electrical power through all 12 stories, as well as atop the elevator cab for the spotlights. City staff streamlined the permitting process once we had gone through final approval with the City Council. We worked with the Public Art Commission to develop the content of the inscriptions and iconographies, soliciting public input through the City web portal, to collect and classify the wide spectrum of work that the public engages in, which the artwork seeks to represent. The Commission also collaborated with us on the final curation of the inscriptions and iconographies that were incorporated into the art-system.
The City of Evanston has implemented many fewer public artworks than a city like Chicago and did not have the civic cultural infrastructure to project manage the process. However, other City staff stepped into the void and were helpful and supportive, and the citizen members of the Public Art Commission likewise took an active role in content review and behind-the-scenes lobbying of the City Council to insure project approval.