santa cruz museum of art and history:
redesign of abbott square

design + Interactive

This piece was a collaboration with Artist, George Zisiadis, for a public art concept commissioned by the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History. As a means of drawing visitors in to the main entrance of the Museum, which is nestled in a plaza tucked away in an off-shoot of the main thoroughfare, George and I constructed the idea of an urban oasis that would function as a visual focal point within the city landscape. 

Visitors to the Museum, Abbott Square Pavilion and the surrounding area, would be led by way of a bread crumb trail created by mounting layers of colour swaths and pattern swatches laid upon the concrete and building facade. Various points of entry into the Museum pavilion were signified by concentrated areas of colour and pattern opening up into a fantastical environment centered around the concept of play. The main components of the installation take reference from the natural environment surrounding the city of Santa Cruz, the SCMAH brand palette (the evolution of it, past + present), as well as the deconstructed form of the circle - a form that is heavily tied into the current branding and is the form that the patterns and fabricated pinwheels are derived from.

Aside from the pure visual, visitors have the ability to change the face of the installation by controlling the pinwheels via 2 trumpeted microphones that act as breath amplifiers. The audience is invited to blow into the trumpeted control, causing an electrical current to rotate the pinwheels on the building facade accordingly.

From the artist's (GZ) statement:

The Museum is all about its visitors. It's a very participatory, interactive place. They want people to engage with art in a very hands on way, which I find very empowering and inspiring. I wanted to extend this idea to the physical structure of the building itself. I wanted people to be able to interact with and affect the whole building through a physical expression, and to feel empowered by that. 

The design guidelines were to create an installation that draws visitors to the plaza and engages families and children. I saw pinwheels as a natural fit given their colorful, kinetic, and playful nature. They appeal to the child within us all, especially when they're larger than life. 

I hope that visitors will experience a feeling of self-confidence, joy, and wonder. Its not everyday you see your breath move a giant 10-ft diameter pinwheel 3 stories in the air. I also hope visitors realize that our public spaces and institutions can and should be places of fun and creativity. In fact, thats the only way for them to thrive.


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John James
George Zisiadis

Design, Illustration + Renders
Artistic Concept