FORWARD: Issue #5: Housing
In the East Kellogg Improvement Projects in Wichita Kansas, these colors slowly sweep across the surface, animating the “flag,” as if waving in the wind.
Partner We Love
Location: Lake Forest Park, Washington
“My goal is to enhance public space, creating a more livable and inviting built environment, lifting the human spirit, promoting quality of life, and encouraging people to engage in social experiences.”
Project: East Kellogg Improvement Projects 2021 Partners: Vicki Scuri SiteWorks with WSP & subconsultants Location: Wichita, Kansas
One of the challenges we face in the 21st century is to humanize our transportation infrastructure. These projects often, paradoxically, divide neighborhoods while seeking to connect others. Large-scale efforts to increase mobility often impact neighborhoods at the human scale. Infrastructure can become a better neighbor by responding to its site, landscape, and community. We must transform infrastructure from anonymous expressions of planning and engineering into amenities that celebrate and reflect local identity.
Vicki Scuri celebrating a successful mockup review.
As an artist and multidisciplinary designer, I focus my work on mitigating the impact of infrastructure on communities, in an effort to create site-responsive, contextual designs that reflect community heritage, values, and landscape. My projects are perceptual, evoking emotional responses through the play of light and shadow over form, transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary through the use of common materials in uncommon ways.
The East Kellogg Project in Wichita, Kansas, is an excellent example of how vision, enacted through interdisciplinary collaborations, can reshape how we build. Collaborating with WSP, Transystems LLC, and their subconsultants, we worked with local communities to elicit their values and aspirations. This engagement process shaped our approach. The wind, waves of prairie grass, local aviation history, and the arc of the sun over the site inspire aesthetics as community identity, expressed over five miles of new retaining walls connecting three bridges. These “windswept patterned” retaining walls and bridges mark the neighborhoods throughout this highway improvement project. This was a massive undertaking.
Sweeping “wind through the prairie” wall patterning distinguishes the East Kellogg Project.
Working alongside the project team, we enhanced the retaining walls with sculptural relief patterning that reflects light and creates shadows in response to the sun. The color of the retaining walls suggests the hues of local limestone and prairie grasses in late summer and fall. The time of year, time of day, and weather all influence these colors and patterns. The patterns come to life with the motion of driving or walking by, or when simply observing the play of light and shadow on their surfaces, promoting experiential awareness. This long stretch of concrete retaining walls stands as a tribute to the natural beauty of the Kansas landscape.
Webb, one of the three bridges along the five-mile project, announces the East Gateway to the city. The brick red color of the grills, paired with concrete stained in hues of the Kansas landscape, reflect Wichita’s context, characterized by brick and limestone buildings set in a prairie landscape.
The Webb bridge[O1] marks the East Gateway to Wichita.
The mirrored details in the concrete parapet and railing expand the height of the pattern design, emphasizing the crossing.
Down the road from the Webb bridge, two additional bridges span neighborhood roads at Greenwich and Zelta. These two landmark bridges celebrate their communities, promoting increased mobility and connection to the formerly indistinct intersections. The bridges at Greenwich and Zelta identify their neighborhoods with a combination of wall patterning, shaped piers, curved barriers, and innovative cut metal grills across their spans. These elements’ curvilinear forms recall Wichita’s aeronautic history, once known as the “Air Capital of the World.” This establishes a sense of place and roots the project in its history.
Greenwich features symmetrical form and patterning that builds in intensity at the bridge.
Greenwich’s complementary pattern sequences are outlined in shadow or bathed in light, depending on the direction of the pattern stroke.
At Zelta, long “wind-blown” pattern sequences stretch toward the bridge, enhancing the experience of movement and destination.
The interplay of sunlight over the deep relief patterning creates boldly outlined strokes of shadow.
At night, all three bridges are illuminated, displaying programmable LED shows marking the four seasons, holidays, and sports team wins, creating anticipation and marking time.
The seasonal shows cycle through subtle color shifts over a 15-minute loop. The multicolored sequences feature a dynamic combination of gradient fades bracketed by moments of bold single-color washes, suggesting qualities of the featured season.
The Greenwich bridge fall show, seen above, displays autumn hues with a tricolor fade into a complementary pattern sequence, seen below.
The complementary paired sequences add structure to the lighting shows.
The paired sequences are bracketed by full color holds, creating pause points in the 15-minute lighting loops.
During the winter show, a hold on blue reflects the change in seasons from fall to winter.
At Zelta, cool blues, purples, and earth tones suggest Wichita’s cold winter climate.
Earth tones celebrate the landscape in winter.
Bright, clear, gold light transforms Zelta into a neighborhood beacon.
The colorful shows bring new awareness to these suburban neighborhoods. At night, the bridges become community landmarks, providing a feeling of comfort, safety, and connection, promoting a sense of place and destination. Connecting rather than dividing communities, these bridges become topics of conversation and admiration.
The lighting engages the community on many levels. Nothing like this had ever been done before in Wichita. When the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl in 2020, the community asked the City to display the team colors on Webb. This was so popular with citizens that later, the City opted to display the game wins of other local teams on all the bridges.
Webb Gateway displaying Kansas City Chiefs’ colors upon their win of the 2020 Super Bowl.
On New Year’s Eve, the lights twinkle across the span and sweep along the walls.
The light sweeps in the direction of traffic, emphasizing flow.
The Fourth of July is a very popular holiday in Wichita.
The Fourth of July show features colorful bands of red, white, and blue, suggesting the American flag draped over the infrastructure. The programming for our shows was done in collaboration with Signify for Color Kinetics.
These colors slowly sweep across the surface, animating the “flag,” as if waving in the wind.
Our team’s contribution to the East Kellogg Improvement Project demonstrates a new standard for responsibly integrating infrastructure into the life of communities. It stands as a highlight in my life’s work: enriching the public realm.
This contextual, aesthetic approach to Wichita’s infrastructure even won over Donald Snyder, Metro engineer for the Kansas Department of Transportation, who remarked:
Very impressive! I’m usually not a big fan of some of the artwork incorporated into transportation projects . . . but the LED lights and the artwork on the MSE and soldier pile walls on the current projects definitely seem like a worthwhile investment.
Over my 35-year career in public art and infrastructure, I have had the opportunity and the challenge to create interesting and beautiful projects that create a positive relationship between neighborhoods and infrastructure, for both residents and public agencies, promoting a more humane public realm, for now and for future generations.
Vicki Scuri SiteWorks East Kellogg Improvement Projects
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FORWARD: Issue #5
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