The new city hall in Shoreline, Wash., is a model of sustainability, featuring a green roof, recycled-content materials and an on-site solar-demonstration project. But one of the structure's most striking elements, a huge piece of exterior artwork, also turned out to be a surprisingly green design choice.
"Limelight" is a free-form mural, painted on large interlocking aluminum panels, that meanders up the façade of the elegant, LEED-certified glass and aluminum building. This bold take on a public art project reflects the collaborative spirit between an inventive artist and an imaginative architect.
LMN Architects of Seattle envisioned some kind of art piece integrated with the building and landscaping. Randal Bennett, principal then with LMN, now with ZGF Architects, had been struck by the swirling terrazzo floor of the city hall in nearby Bellevue, Wash. Its creator, artist Linda Beaumont, was contacted and ultimately selected for the commission.
The builders first wanted a work with an evergreen motif. But Beaumont soon changed their minds. "Linda told us a story about taking shortcuts through the woods here when she was a child, and encountering these blossoming dogwoods," Bennett says. "It was a very poetic image."
Beaumont says she was also inspired by the context of the building, which sits on an old highway where billboards and exotic dance clubs vie with remnants of the forest. The Pacific dogwood's fragile blossoms suggest "a longing for a world that's being consumed, disappearing," Beaumont says. She called the project "Limelight," after the green glow of the dogwood buds and to honor Shoreline coming into its own with this innovative civic site.
Early in the project, the architects suggested a work in glass. But funding was limited, and Beaumont also felt a glass art installation would be too dark to be seen during the day. Then Bennett suggested painting straight onto the building. Beaumont was stunned, then delighted. She loved the notion of people moving through the glass corridors alongside giant flowers.
Delight quickly gave way to problem-solving: how to paint something both lyrical and durable. As Beaumont notes wryly, "Given the weather here, we don't exactly do much mural work."