|On a four-acre project site, the twenty-four pylons that support the road deck were painted with reflective silver paint to catch the light and render the massive pylons. Hargreaves Associates worked with Julian Lang, who devised a word scheme in Karuk and English that recalls concepts common to both Native American and modern cultures. Words like Earth, river, path, and together translate to words that do not seem familiarYUUX, ISHKEESH, IMPAAH, KOOVAN. Twenty-four words were applied to the pylonsNative American words face the river, and the English translations face the street. Between the road decks a five-hundred-foot-long landform allows one to view the word scheme at eye level.
The landform functions as a signifier of profound change on the site. It is a simple abstract expression of the gap between the road decks above and the light that hits the ground. With its presence, latent qualities of the familiar space are accentuated. It is broad and straight, so the long view to the river is given emphasis and thrust. It is low and massive so that it brings scale to the pylons and their immense visual weight. It is made of shaped earth, so the smooth surfaces of the infrastructure are brought into contrast. The word scheme can be experienced in several ways. You can walk atop the landform reading English on the way to the river and Karuk on the way back. You can wander through the pylons to string together a sentence or a poem. You can translate each word one at a time, reading the front and then the back. No one path is better than another; each offers a different experience. The landform and words are like nothing else in this modern realm, and together they create the suspicion that the place has a purpose. Is it a carrier of ancient wisdom? A monument? Is it a place for reverence?
Hargreaves Associates is a professional consulting firm comprised of landscape architects and planners with offices in San Francisco, California; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and New York City. The firm combines the skills of landscape architecture, planning, and urban design with related disciplines to create memorable environments. The work is characterized by a philosophy of strong, simple design that responds in innovative ways to the unique set of forces exerted upon each site from both cultural and environmental processes.
This article was originally published in Landscape & Art, Summer 2003.