Upper Blush - CODAworx

Upper Blush

Client: Norfolk Arts

Location: Norfolk, VA, United States

Completion date: 2018

Artwork budget: $152,000

Project Team

Industry Resource

John Grant

Public Art Sevices

Industry Resource

Nick Geurts



Matthew Geller

Hutabut LLC


Karen Rudd

Norfolk Arts


The canopy teeters like a seesaw as people sway on the benches. When it rains, water is funneled from the roof through drainpipes to troughs on the ground and then to the adjacent rain garden. By teetering the canopy, those on the benches can determine from which pipe the water drains. The muse for Upper Blush is an issue critical to Norfolk’s future—rising tides. The circles of light on the ground created by the skylights reference the moon, and the teetering and swaying mimic the ebb and flow of the water. The human interaction that influences the balance and the flow of the water serves as a metaphor for larger issues associated with floodwater management.

NEON District, Norfolk, VA
8.5’ x 16’ x 18’
Painted & stainless steel, wood, Lexan


Upper Blush is the first step in the transformation of the site of a former car dealership into a community space.


Geller’s process always begins with stakeholder and community engagement which could include learning about the area's history, gaining insight into the community’s vision for the site, and brainstorming about what would enrich and bring together their diverse community.

John Grant (Public Art Services) provided design development and fabrication services for the structure and installation. Nick Geurts (Yetiweurks) provided design and structural engineering services.

Additional Information

In his public art practice, Matthew Geller’s participatory sculptures become one of the building blocks that make a space a destination. As such, the work activates the site and promotes interaction among visitors, often creating intimate moments in a singularly public space. Part of his work’s success is that it is physically experiential: viewers understand that there is a place for themselves in it. His sculptures enable moments of respite and delight, befitting the site's functional and visual context. He purposefully uses materials from the everyday environment creating a level of connection to the familiar while highlighting elements of awe and beguilement. The idea is to surprise while fostering the sense of an inclusive community around an unlikely object or location, creating a micro public square or landmark. By considering behavioral design and incorporating dynamic elements activated by people and changes in the weather, the resulting work is in constant flux. Ultimately, the artwork’s goal will be to engender a sense of wonder, enhancing the community and visitor experience.