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Columbia parking garage is artist's canvas

Columbia parking garage is artist's canvas

A parking garage in downtown Columbia will become the canvas for the Howard Hughes Corp.’s latest public arts project, creating the visualization of a Maryland sunset on the corner of Broken Land and Little Patuxent parkways.

Artist Vicki Scuri and her partner, Alex Polzin, created and designed the project, “Rainbow Sunset,” which will feature a variety of colors and translucent polycarbonate paneling on the north and west sides of the parking garage.

Over the past few months, painted blocks were placed on the facade of the garage to test the art’s interaction with light. Cochran and Mann paint contracting company began preparing the side of the garage Aug. 9 in order to paint and varnish the sunset pattern; a process expected to be completed mid-September.


Triangle Sign and Service will then install the fin-shaped panels, which will extend nearly a foot away from the garage, anchored by an aluminum channel section.

The art project should be completed by mid- to late-October, according to Antony Justin, a project engineer for Howard Hughes Corp.

“It’s an opportunity to really showcase some of the new development that’s coming to Columbia,” he said. “I think the art does that really well.”

An artist of 35 years, Scuri said she’s traveled across the country to create large-scale art projects for infrastructures, including bridges, rain gardens, windscreens and streetscapes. Columbia isn’t her first Maryland project; she also designed the Rock Creek Trail pedestrian bridge in Silver Spring.

An award-winning artist and resident of Lake Forest Park, Wash., Scuri begins each project by researching and visiting the community where it will be displayed. It’s important to integrate the art into the community, she said, while creating “a symbol of their identity.”

“The parking garage is a very big structure and undifferentiated in terms of pedestrian scale, color or perception,” Scuri said. “We were asked to come in and do something to mitigate some of that, so that it would have a landmark quality and address some sort of visual interest in scale for pedestrians.”

Howard Hughes Corp. accepted Scuri’s proposal in June 2016 and hired her two months later. Scuri said the paneling material, called koda XT, is designed to work with the sunlight to create a blend of colors. Although the panels won’t move, the light’s reflection on the durable material creates an optical illusion of movement.

“The color that we liked also happens to match the colors of sunset and the Maryland skies. That’s the hook,” Scuri said.

“The sun actually hits that west corner pretty well,” Justin added. “It’ll look pretty special in the evenings. I’m excited to see it go up.”

This project is the latest work of art to come to the downtown area as outlined in the Downtown Columbia Plan adopted by the Howard County Council in 2010. “Petal Play,” a series of interactive flower sculptures outside the Metropolitan apartments, was the first project, unveiled in 2015 by artist Mary Ann Mears. Nearby, additional multifamily housing, known as m.flats and TEN.M, will also have sculptures by artist Rodney Carroll.

Scuri, Mears and Carroll will join William Cochran of Cochran Studio at the Howard County Art Center on Sept. 6 to discuss Columbia's past, present and future art as well as selections from the Rouse Co./Howard Hughes Corp. Arts Collection exhibit. The exhibit will be on display at the arts center galleries Sept. 1 through Oct. 13 and includes 27 pieces of artwork.

The program and exhibit are part of the Columbia 50th birthday celebration.

This story has been updated.

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