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Project Title What Is The City But The People

Project Completed 2021

Project Partners Martin Donlin and Anton Morton

Project Media Polycarbonate and Stainless Steel
Polycarbonate and stainless steel suspended mosaic near 30,000 sq.ft. Unified, young and old, some with cellphone in hand and others a cane, the multicolored figures move in parade as a subtle nod to classical artwork processions from the Greek Parthenon Frieze (440 BC) to the expressionism of American Artist Norman Lewis (1909-1979). Cutting the silhouettes into layers of color, Donlin’s composition laces together the squared structure of surrounding downtown city blocks with a keyline of organic Native American symbol inspired lettering and stylized outline of the State of Oklahoma. The beguiling use of local anecdotes lends a clever sense of place to the action of The People as they move rhythmically, forward, in unison. The subjective experience of the static installation is layered more deeply by the impact of ever changing natural and artificial lighting that bring a sense of life to the individual components themselves. At sunrise, from inside the garage façade, you can watch the tiles slowly change from rainbow metal sheens of crystallized bismuth into a prismatic display of luminous glass mosaic. Throughout the day, a tessellation of shadows draws their colors from the tiled wall as the penumbra chases and recedes across the floors in response to the movement of the sun.

The goal of the project was to create a series of artistic skin walls to wrap the exterior of the Oklahoma City Convention Center Parking Garage and function as a barrier which has a surface that is fifty percent open; allowing natural airflow through the facility. The infrastructure was funded through Oklahoma City's Maps III Funding with Public Artwork being made possible by the Oklahoma City Percent for Art Program. Full project catalog here:

The first undertaking was guiding the original design from solid form into an engineered open format that could be fabricated for installation to meet building code and architectural requirements. To make it possible, we had to rebuild the design, digitally, at scale. The file resulted in over 3.2 billion pixels and nearly 2GB of raw data. The design was overlayed with a template we created to mirror the supporting hardware and open area in the façade. With the template area redacted from the design we were able to start the labored task of combing through 89,000 digital squares to solidify color to each. For several weeks, we swapped colors in the digital design, shipped multiple rounds of tile samples halfway around the globe, built demo models to test light reflection and refraction and had Zoom meetings showing each other tile after tile by sunlight, moonlight and flashlight. The next major feat came in the form of counting the number of tiles in each color. Rather than counting the tiles one at a time, we created a method with an algorithm to calculate color percentages and divide by the total number of tiles to get the number of tiles per color.

Additional Information
This project was Honored with The AIA Design Award, the highest State AIA Honor, by an out-of-state jury. "For such a utilitarian everyday structure which is typically so mundane. it is rare that one rises to the level of civic prominence like this one does. The typically banal garage typology rises to the level of ephemeral experience. The jury appreciated the dappled quality of light and the experience of the user from both interior and exterior. The detailing of the polycarbonate panels is refined and elegant, it enlivens the street." [AIA Jury Comments]
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