Justice and Transparency

Surprising images of floating feathers help a California courthouse balance the scales of architecture and art.

Challenge: 

The striking new Governor Deukmejian Courthouse in Long Beach, Calif. spans two city blocks in downtown Long Beach and replaces a functionally obsolete courthouse one block away. In keeping with the cityscape, the courthouse design features a low-rise scheme in an L-shape—with one section of four stories, the other of five stories—surrounding a secure courtyard, a spacious lobby, and 31 courtrooms with access to natural light. Clad in deeply-articulated curtainwall and stone elements, the courthouse also features a stunning frieze at its entrance.

American new media artist and UCLA professor Jennifer Steinkamp, who designed the video art installation integrated into the metal mesh of the frieze, was able to realize her design goals by combining architecture with art.

Influence: 

The frieze is meant to inspire atmospheric lightness through transparency. “My goal was to inspire people as they entered the courthouse and, with the LEDs and metal fabric, I was able to achieve this,” says Steinkamp.

Solution: 

The installation was achieved through the use of GKD Mediamesh. Designers had already chosen GKD Tigris for the atrium, so Steinkamp felt Mediamesh would be a perfect choice for the frieze. The Mediamesh frieze—titled Murmuration—draws its inspiration from the ostrich feather and its connection to the Egyptian goddess of justice, Ma’at. In Murmuration, the floating feathers are emblems of truth and justice, with colorful feathers moving like birds within the electronic display. “I’ve always wanted to work with Mediamesh,” says Steinkamp. “The product has such magical properties and I’m thrilled how the project turned out.” Murmuration is a permanent exhibition. The three-dimensional display using GKD Mediamesh has expanded the possibilities beyond the typical frieze seen upon entering a courthouse.

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