The Portland Building Forest Theme

Submitted by Alex Hirsch

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Client: Howard S. Wright on behalf of the Owner the City of Portland

Location: Portland, OR, United States

Completion date: 2020

Project Team

Environmental Graphics

Kathy Fry

Mayer/Reed

Fabricator and Installer

Jeff Wallin

Fireart Glass

Senior Superintendent

Bob Mathisen

Howard S. Wright

Overview

In January, 2020, I competed and installed ten site-specific, wall-mounted glass panels as part of the renovations of the historic Portland Building. My work is integrated with DLR Group’s Interior Design and Mayer/Reed’s Experiential Graphics to foster a sense of place. We all interpreted the themes of valley, river, forest and basalt. I made unique glass imagery for each of ten Gathering Spaces; these function as the floors’ living room/kitchen. My handmade work correlates with a photographic mural by the elevators, abstract graphics in the stairwells, and graphics in the bathrooms. (Photos by the artist due to the constraints of the pandemic.)

Goals

Our intent was to celebrate the region that is central to Portland's identity and key to the people who choose to live there. The layout of each floor is very similar. Through color, graphics and my artwork, we differentiated one floor of workers from the next. When you get off the elevator, walk up the stairs, or enter the common area of the Gathering Space, there are distinguishing visuals to let employees know where they are. In the larger sense, the imagery places them in the context of the region they serve and often love. My work speaks to the larger setting of geography and landscape that speaks to place. It offers a visual reprieve from computer screens and desk work.

Process

I drove through valleys, hiked forests, sat by rivers, and rambled on rock. Based on my impressions and photos, I developed pictorial and abstract interpretations of each theme. I worked from macro to micro and from pictorial to abstract. This was of interest to me and in concert with the approach by the Design Team. It was a great opportunity to stretch my range since every piece was hung independently of the next. I took advantage of the project and medium to capitalize on the depth possible with fused glass in some, and pushing qualities of drawing and painting in others. My thinking and facility with the materials grew. These images mark significant advancement in my practice of fused glass. My hand is in every piece and dominates those that look like a drawing or painting. I worked side by side with my fabricator to develop the palettes, mark making, layering, and all other effects.

Additional Information

A link a webinar about how I made this work and others for the City of Portland: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKdAjYjq2K0 The Pacific Northwest is special for its forests. Portland proper is fortunate to include Forest Park. Consisting of some 5,200 acres, Forest Park is one of the largest urban forests in the country. During colder months, fog nestles in the hills. In Quiet, Spaciousness has a dreamy, quieting quality. It is one of several glass works in this collection that has a strong kinship to my works on paper. Before moving to the Pacific Northwest, I had neither seen verdant ferns, green grass nor lush moss in winter. Rhododendron and azalea soon cheered me with blooms in early winter and on into spring. Skunk Cabbage, Dogwood, Banana Slugs, Trillium caught my attention. With more exposure to local forests, I grew to love nurse logs that support new life as the older trunk decays. Look Close, See More attempts to create an experience for the eye to move from plant to plant, detail to detail, enjoying richness. My intent was to make something like a sketch that is partially painted.