Tree of Light - CODAworx

Tree of Light

Submitted by Nancy Livengood

Client: Fulton County Arts and Culture

Location: Atlanta, GA, United States

Completion date: 2021

Artwork budget: $144,500

Project Team


Petra Bachmaier



Sean Gallero



Valerie Respress

Project Manager

Alex Frankcombe

Fulton County Arts & Culture


Nancy Livengood

Fulton County Arts & Culture


Tom Meyer


Atlanta, the ‘City in a Forest,’ is a place of deep roots and rich history. As a gathering place for knowledge, this library serves as its heart – its modern Tree of Science* – drawing in its community and branching out to others.
Tree of Light is a poem of light expressing interconnected ideas of our appreciation of trees. The sculpture is made of text inscribed mirror discs arranged like the leaves on a tree while referencing Marcel Breuer’s original quartet of skylights located on the ceiling of the fourth floor: four circles of light, poised in the corners of a square. The words engraved on the discs are a product of community outreach, collected through a process of wordplay and arranged by Atlanta-based poet Valerie Respress.
*The Tree of Science (Arbor Scientiae), written in 1295 by mystic and philosopher Ramon Llull, was an early version of an encyclopedia format aimed to enable the comprehension of universal knowledge, art, and science.


The goals for the artwork's integration into the library renovations were:
*to create an original and site-responsive artwork using the theme of 'Light and Enlightenment’ – Part of the goal of the building's renovation was to introduce more light. We wanted the artwork to play with this broader goal to feel part of the building. The reflective disks project light throughout the building creating a dappled effect in the building's four-story opening.
*one of the most important goals was to pull together the community of Fulton County, especially surrounding downtown Atlanta, to collaborate in the interconnected ideas that created the poem for the artwork and represented in the branching of the tree.
*the artwork sought to draw and engage the viewer within the building, creating a link that shifts as the viewpoint changes and the play of words and reflected images blur, reflect and focus.
*additionally, it was important to draw on the architectural elements that are essential to the Marcel Breuer building to create a harmonious interplay between artwork and architecture through the use of materials and reflecting the quartet of skylights located on the ceiling of the 4th floor.
*the artwork reinforces the library as a transformative place of coming together and branching outward.


To begin, we hosted a round table discussion with the art leaders, historians, architects and the artist to discuss the important characteristics of Atlanta, its history, its community, its future.
The artist was given a tour of the library with an explanation of its significance in the Bauhaus movement, its architect Marcel Breuer, and its role as part of a broader strategy to enhance downtown Atlanta as a key destination.
Luftwerk returned to Atlanta, meeting with residents at different libraries to collaborate using word-play to create the poem for the artwork and Atlanta-based poet Valerie Respress transformed the collected words into the poem displayed.
While Luftwerk continued to create the artwork and work through the fabrication, they stayed in contact with the construction team from Fulton County and worked to ensure that installation would be a smooth process and the piece would integrate into the custom ceiling panels.
Once installed, we were able to discuss the natural light that floods the stairwell where the sculpture is suspended and the idea of adding additional directed lighting from below to create the reflected light effect desired. Luftwerk found the appropriate lighting and collaborated with the team from Fulton County to determine the best solution.

Additional Information

In form, the artwork is a suspended sculpture consisting of a branching structure, supporting over 400 mirror polished stainless steel discs – “leaves,” engraved with text. From the chaotic burst of light, the order and form of the tree emerges, like knowledge emerging from the haze of inquiry. Read and experienced from different viewpoints, they combine into a multitude of collective ideas and wordplay. The text engraved on the discs of the sculpture is a poem created by an Atlanta-based poet from words derived from the community to describe Atlanta's trees. HOPEFUL PEACEFUL GIVING LIFE WISDOM RESILIENCE HEALING STRIFE AROMATIC NECTAR BOLD LUSH IMAGINE ETERNITY SERENITY HUSH CANOPY SHADE HOME CALM MYSTERIOUS CONNECTION MAJESTIC REBIRTH REFRESHING BEAUTY MOTHER EARTH FUN SUN BREEZE BEGUN CHILDREN SWINGING BEES STINGING PEACHES CLINGING FROGS SINGING REFRESHING REMARKABLE MEMORIES MADE COLORFUL FOLIAGE DRAMATIC POETRY NURTURING SPLENDOR MAGNIFICENT TRANQUILITY INSPIRATION SUSTAINING LIFE ETERNITY INTEGRITY ENDURING REBIRTH LONGEVITY SOOTHING VIBES AMAZING NATURALLY ANCIENT SPIRITS SOULFUL SERENITY LOVE UNAFRAID PROVIDES OPPORTUNITY RENEW UNITE REJOICE COMMUNITY THRIVE NOURISH CREATE POSITIVITY