“The Woodlands”

Submitted by Cindy Kessler

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Client: City of Largo

Location: City of Largo, FL, United States

Completion date: Jan 01, 2010

Artwork budget: $90,000

Project Team

Architect

Jason Jensen

Wannemacher Jensen Architects, Inc.

Art Consultant

Mark Flickinger

Environmental Design Collaborations

Artist

Cindy Kessler

Kessler Studios, Inc.

Overview

“The Woodlands” mosaic reaches out to the community with the spirit of joy, vitality and energy inherent to the Largo Community Center.

Wannemacher Jensen Architects laid the foundation for the artwork by placing abstract “trees” across the masonry wall; green windows with sandblasted “tree trunks” beneath. The mosaic playful forms complete the woodland scene by provide the under-story vegetation (the small trees, shrubs and flowers).

Although the mosaic abstract shapes represent specific elements of nature, identifying them as such is not important. The artwork is intended to touch and uplift the human spirit at a passing glance.

Goals

The City of Largo had a relatively small budget for an area that was quite large. We decided to treat the entire wall as our "canvas" and integrate the art into the wall itself. Since the architect had already introduced the tree theme by the use of green tinted glass and sand-blasted trunks, we worked towards balancing those elements with artwork at the ground level. The tree forms were very rectilinear and we felt the need to soften that effect with our "under-story"; vegetation. Our foliage becomes more organic and the flower forms even more so.

At the same time, we wanted the mosaic artwork to appear fluid and graceful, active and spontaneous. The purpose of the Community center is to encourage activity and exploration, interaction and fun with others. The playful character of the art outside the building is a welcoming indicator of the enriching, fun activities awaiting the visitor inside.

Process

Because we wanted to integrate the artwork into the wall-- literally--, we had to be involved at a very early stage in the construction. We first designed plywood forms that were the exact shape of the mosaic and the contractor poured the concrete over them to create the wall (called tilt-ups). This resulted in recesses that the mosaic tesserae fit into. The mosaic is thus perfectly smooth, in the same plane as the surrounding wall surfaces. This approach makes for a very integrated look and also serves to protect the mosaic from damage or vandalism.

There were two levels on decision makers: A committee designated by the City of Largo, and the Council Members themselves. After Cindy was selected by the Committee, she made a presentation directly to the Council. Some members were politically opposed to spending money for art on public projects. Cindy patiently explained her concept behind the design and tried to answer all their questions. In the end, the council voted 6 to 1 to proceed.

Additional Information

We used stained glass sheet glass, cut and tumbled (to remove sharp edges) instead of traditional glass smalti. Given the small area we had to create within, we wanted the glass to be as dynamic as possible. Stained glass tessera has undulations of color within each piece, giving us a much more dynamic palette to choose from. Because of the warm climate and protected-from-weather architecture of the entry, the use of such materials on an exterior wall was deemed safe and durable.