2011 • US Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters, Seattle, WA

Public Art Proposal

© 2011 Buster Simpson

Site Design by Todd Metten

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The sculpture Recovery is designed for the land just west of the Federal Center South Recovery Redevelopment. Recovery is a transformative approach to building an artwork that will have the potential to evolve from sculptural object to functional environmental mitigation. Recovery is, in essence, a “poetic utility.” In other words, a tool designed to perform a particular function that is, in itself, a work of art as exemplified in the approach that dates back to indigenous peoples’ integrating of art into life. The artwork elements communicate the potential to repurpose landscape elements to the riverside at a later date in order to continue the efforts of the US Army Corps of Engineers and community to enhance the Duwamish River estuarine reach habitat.

The sculptural installation consists of sixteen figurative sentinels of cast concrete, arranged within a 32-foot grid. They are coupled with uniquely shaped tree forms, each one anchoring and cradling the woody mass, poised to aid marine habitat enhancement. The reconfigured tetrapod is cast reinforced concrete, containing recycled aggregate, and weighs approximately 1,900 pounds. A linear element of braided stainless steel cable will wrap and secure the cedar tree forms to the pods. The sculptural formations will rest on a compacted rock base. If redeployed along the estuarine reach, the figurative pods provide anchorage to hold biomass at river’s edge.

The formation of the installation is aligned to the east-west centerline of the building and the west boundary of the project site along the Duwamish River. This orientation provides occupants of the facility views from the west end of the building, including those of the central common space in the building and the outdoor gathering deck. The prime public viewpoint will be from the Duwamish River and Diagonal Street End Park. The sculptural figures face the river with their concrete back to the east. As the viewer meanders along the trail around the detention pond, the details of the figurative sentinels and wood forms is revealed. The pods rest at grade, some partially submerged at times within the seasonal waters of the detention pond and some on high ground. As a metaphor of healing past practices, the tree forms could evolve into nursing log habitats for meadow birds and later, perhaps, habitat for salmon restoration.

Recovery exemplifies a new paradigm for contemporary public art, by suggesting / inferring a new public practice to use conceptual ideas and apply them to actual environmental problems. This aesthetic identifies an active role for art in the environment.

VIEW the Full Proposal PDF