Seventh Climate (Paradise Reconsidered)

I-5 Colonnade Park, Seattle, WA, 2006


Left: Winter 2006 view towards the northwest of project under the I-5 freeway, central Seattle, WA, east of Lake Union (formally called, I-5 Open Space Project), 2006 just after installation.

Center: Summer 2009 view of tree growth with Metasequoia glyptostroboides replacement of Eucalyptus urnigera that died, Spring 2006 in forground.

Right: Winter 2006 night view towards Lake Union to the west, testing of full moon illumination.



Trachycarpus fortunei - Windmill/Chusan Palm (Taiwan, Chusan Islands),
Magnolia denudata - Yulan/Tulip Magnolia (Central China),
Betula jacquemontii - Himalayan Birch (Western Himalaya),
Metasequoia glyptostroboides - Dawn Redwood (China, paleo-North America, Asia, Europe)

Overhead precipitation and sun/moonlight system with electronic programming of Seattle precipitation, sun/moonlight for the year 1960, recycled concrete rubble.

Seventh Climate (Paradise Reconsidered), 2006, emerges from the interaction of six elements each representing a different climate, memory and/or ecology: four species of trees, each from a distinct biome/terrains planted to form one organism, a simulation by lighting and artificial rain of the 1960 Seattle, pre-freeway precipitation, sunlight and moonlight cycles, and the current ambient weather of Seattle.

Sited under the I-5 freeway in Seattle, WA as part of the new I-5 Colonnade Park, this project engages properties of this unique site, a space with its own ecology, rain/light, shadow and topographic properties. The site is related to but separate from other Seattle ecological systems, affording a special opportunity to explore the concept of ecology outside of typical definitions with radical if not disparate/displaced combinations or conjunctions of elements. The installation of freeway in the early 1960’s necessitated the removal and dislocation of a portion of the Eastlake neighborhood, there are no recognizable remains of the streets, houses or biota of that neighborhood except the several streets dead-ending into the freeway’s under space.

Filling and framing the space underneath one main segment of the central of three freeways that pass overhead, The Seventh Climate (Paradise Reconsidered) creates a meta-system that brings together the interaction of global representatives in the form of selected tree species and a symbolic dissolution of a section of the I-5 freeway through a simulation/mimicry of the external Seattle, pre-freeway climate of 1960, to create an alternative, symbiotic, ecology, and environment. A complex electronic program activates an elevated mist/rain emission system and solar and moonlight simulation lighting. The ground plane within the zone of altered climate is of recycled concrete, a reflection of the overhead freeway and missing neighborhood's construction/deconstruction. Four trees, optimally with a ‘white/ghost’ element (flower, trunk, or foliage) each representing a different climate, biome/terrain, tightly planted in the center of the site forming a single arboreal structure. The lighting system is aimed at the top 1/2 of the tree group, the rain system is in two linear, overhead elements on either side and above the tree group.
A cumulative effect of the year-long light and moisture simulation of the 1960 external Seattle environment in this zone is to “remove” or “make transparent” the section of freeway and it metaphorical darkness, directly overhead, as in 1960, a year before the freeway was built. The sun, moon and rain that had nourished the site before the freeway was built is symbolically reconstructed. Within the interactive context and conditions created by the freeway site, cycling light, intermittent rain and arboreal growth, these elements are asked to reconcile, adapt and engage with each other, forming new relationships and questions across bio-geographic, meta-ecological boundaries/languages, cultural, industrial and natural interdependency, collaboration and production. The possibility of a local alternative to distant eco-tourist destinations/meditation, accessible by bus instead of jet is also suggested.

The earliest climate-referenced work, Prairie Starfish/Glacial Epoch, Qu’Appelle River Valley, Saskatchewan, Canada1980, involves an image from an mythical interpretation of ice age life, the use of a living botanical or arboreal element as a major conceptual and physical aspect of an environmental project begins with Collision: Lava Ship/Trellis Ship, San Rafael, CA, 1985, a struggle of two time frames and systems: botanical and pseudo-volcanic. Arboreal elements as climate and terrain representatives was first explored in Lahontan Group II: Talking Tree/Glacial Epoch, University of Reno, Reno, NV, 1987, where, as part of the multi-phased, Lahontan Group I-III, white alder trees were planted as representatives of the contemporary Nevada climate that would grow into and physically engage a large “fossil” structure of artificial-snow covered steel creating a "conversation" between the Ice Ages and the contemporary climate of Northern Nevada. Metafossil (Pinus: Ponderosa, Radiata, Balfouriana), 1992, expands this idea, examining inter-relationships of species and paleo-climatic migrations/ecologies. The arboreal/terrain/climate conversation and compression of elements, was further elaborated as selected dense plantings of disparate species, similar to that employed in Seventh Climate.., in a series of drawings/studies: Planting Studies: Species/Climate-Zone Compression, I-IV, 1998. Study: Reef/Field (Florida Platform/Project for an Ice Age), 1998, considers similar ideas by proposing time/climate-displaced plantings on the western continental shelf of Florida.


Commissioned by the City of Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs
as an environmental project for the 2000 Pro Parks Levy, completed Spring 2006

Irrigation: Will Stewart
Lighting: Butler/Robbins Alliance
Horticulture: Linda Chalker-Scott

Project Managmement: Carolyn Law (Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs) and
Andrew Scheffer (Seattle Parks and Recreation)

Installation views

City of Seattle I-5 Colonnade site, Seattle Post-Intelligencer article; The Stranger review