When TriMet needed to widen SW Jefferson Street for their new Portland to Hillsboro MAX light rail line, their proposed right-of-way spilled onto the property of an urban high school in a big way. The new boundary landed within 5 feet of the high school track and ran for a length of 134 feet. The engineering solution was a 15 foot high concrete and chain link fence, which we all knew would add insult to injury.
Instead of bracing for litigation, TriMet saw an opportunity to be recognized as a neighborhood builder and brought the wall into their art program. The project was awarded to an artist inspired by the various window shapes discovered in the legacy architecture of the adjacent Goose Hollow neighborhood homes and ideas from students at the adjacent Lincoln High School.
The "wall as windows" design theme, turned into a row of over-sized painted steel window shapes set atop a thick cast-in-place concrete wall with inlay and relief work. The artist, students and teachers then worked together to hand-make etched bronze castings, silicone formwork molds and over 800 ceramic tiles.
As one of over a hundred art elements on the 18-mile light rail line, this project was unique in that it inspired collaboration between school, community, engineers, fabricators and contractors. The project won an Excellence in Concrete Award from the Oregon Concrete Institute in 1995, and upon completion in 1996 it won a Specialty Concrete Award from the Portland Cement Association.