“Tree of Life”; Laminated glass; 20’W x 20’D; Harborview Medical Center; Seattle, WA
“Tree of Life”, designed for Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, WA consists of a drop glass ceiling fabricated with a colorful geometric pattern created out of equilateral right triangles. The panels are backlit, thereby creating a large “stained glass” ceiling type effect.
This project was conceived with the intention of physically/ sculpturally expanding the sense of space, and inspiring an uplifting feeling in the visitor who walks through the Landing waiting area. There are a total of eleven colors utilized in the piece, which have been selected in response to both the physical and emotional qualities of the Landing Area. The colors and composition of the pattern is intended to suggest movement, while referencing nature, and inspiring a feeling of looking up at the blue sky through leaves and branches.
The conceptual foundation of “Tree of Life”, is derived from the sequence of amino acids in the polypeptide chains contained within the hemoglobin of red blood cells. Basically, there are four chains (two pairs) in each hemoglobin molecule, and each strand is made out of a number of different amino acids which come together like beads in a necklace. All together there are 19 amino acids that are being utilized in these two pairs of strands. For this piece each of the amino acids has been assigned a unique color/shape combination which are used to create each chain/ strand . The chains start at the end of the Landing nearest to the hallway. The red squares indicate where one strand ends and the next begins and also stands in place for the iron molecule which is enfolded within the four amino acid chains.
In creating the visual language for the amino acid sequence, the triangle was chosen not only as an active shape, but also (similar to Tangrams) as a means of creating/ suggesting constantly changing forms and shifting figures. This pattern also parallels many of the geometric compositions used in quilts, particularly the “Flying Geese” variations. This reference to quilts and their accompanying association with warmth, care and comfort is particularly welcome within the context of a hospital. Furthermore, this pattern also suggests the idea of working together; of various parts/ pieces uniting together, towards a single common goal. In a sense, this concept echoes the hard work of Harborview doctors, nurses and hospital staff to achieve the twin goals of health and wholeness.