Most architects, designers and builders focus on the permanency of what they design, build and install. They ask, “How will it hold up for decades, or even centuries? How will wear and tear, and weather affect it?” To think about putting an equal or larger effort into the monumental task of creating and installing a grand scale project that will only be temporary makes no sense to most. But to artists of a certain type, it is precisely their goal. If you are not familiar with the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude you may not fathom what I want to share with you. I won’t go into their history here, you can get that from their website, http://christojeanneclaude.net/. It’s a romantic story of collaboration, respect, joy and pure love.
Some artists are willing to go through expense, brick walls of paperwork and funding, monumental emotional investment over years, or even decades to realize a vision. Recently I was given the opportunity to learn the back stories to some of the installations by Christo and Jeanne-Claude that I had only read about or driven by. I remember the umbrella pieces the best when I lived in Southern California. I had no idea how much was involved making it a reality. As architects and designers, I’m sure you can all nod your heads knowing or relating to what they went through in each process. You can most likely relate to the fact that the struggles, adjustments and time investment didn’t guarantee the projects would be realized. I’ll focus on the realized projects here. Some of my favorites are listed below. The titles and images will link directly to their site so you can learn more. The first is the most recent – The Floating Piers.
I’ve only shared with you some of my favorite realized projects. You probably see a pattern for me involving color. Big color that can be seen in different light changing the visual impact. What I’m not showing, but you can see on their site, are those not realized, the stories as to why and what happened next. When do you give up on the vision? When do you accept that you need to focus on another project?
What each of these projects, realized and not realized, have in common is how involved they each are with the people affected by them – directly and indirectly. This includes local government officials, residents, landowners, business owners, as well as those directly involved in executing the project. With Running Fence, the project involved two counties in California – Sonoma and Marin, the Pacific Ocean and hundreds of ranchers, neighbors, paid workers at all levels, local government officials over a period of a few years. The documentaries were a great reminder of how art and architecture affect many people before, during and long after. Even smaller scale commercial projects like the ones we are a part of at Brambier’s Windows and Walls, impact people long after we have put away our tools, and taken our portfolio images. With the advent of social media, suddenly what we create or design becomes a character in someone’s vacation, graduation, story of their proposal, or even a last celebrated memory with a loved one.
It’s an honor to be part of projects that can affect the memories, lives and livelihoods of others; hopefully always in a positive way.