It was dusk. I was walking toward the Pacific Science Center IMAX Theater to watch Ava DuVernay's rather disappointing Wrinkle In Time (and disappointing because its whole concept of the universe, space, and time was way too childish for me—more about that in another post). I looked up at the Space Needle, which is being renovated by Olson and Kundig (it will have a glass bottom when completed). And there it was. Something totally new in the city. Something that even looked like architecture. The bottom of the elevated platform had bronze, autumn-gold, mud-brown, and dark-green patterns with little nodes. It indeed had in my imagination the appearance a circuit board for an alien spaceship. I pictured the aliens as arboreal in nature. And in the dusk, the silver nodes that connected sliver lines that formed small squares, large triangles, and other geometrical shapes shimmered as the gold elevator with its glow of yellow light was sucked into the base of the ship.
I immediately tipped into this work, which is what always happens when a piece of art or architecture arrests me. It's as if the secret fact of my body—the matter that composes it is mostly nothing, mostly empty space—is revealed and becomes real and I fall right into the object, the work, like a ghost walking through a wall. I looked up and tipped into the bottom of this hanging platform, which was at once dazzling and drabbish. But who made it? Olson Kundig? Did the world-respected firm design a work of art for the duration of the revocation? A temporary installation like the [storefront] Olson Kundig project? An installation that finally made the Space Needle interesting. Right now, there is no new architecture or sculpture or painting in this city that can match its otherworldly beauty.
I made a few calls (one to Olson Kundig, and another to the Space Needle), and finally received this response from Danielle Davis, the Public Relations Specialist for Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass:
The Space Needle’s elevated platform was created for functionality and safety, and provides construction workers with a weather-proof environment for the duration of the project. It has also allowed the Space Needle to remain partially open during construction. Safway, a company which typically provides scaffolding services for bridges and dams, created the platform for the Space Needle’s Century Project. The product’s geometric shapes and color are not intended to be artistic, and are rarely visible to the public because of their typical location. However, since the platform on the Space Needle is in a highly visible being nearly 500 feet above ground, the public has the rare opportunity to see the underside of the elevated platform.So, it's not art at all. It's just an accident. But so is the whole universe, and the world we find ourselves in, and the stuff we are made of, and the patterns on leaves, the shapes of clouds. Art has a maker; accidents do not. I usually tip into the former, and almost never into the latter. But at dusk I did indeed double-tip into the bottom of that hanging scaffold.