Beginning with a desire to take what nature offers in its natural form and use those gifts in an artistic, artisanal way, artist, designer, and sculptor Brent Comber and his team drew their inspiration from the breathtaking panoramas of North America’s Pacific coast to create a huge suspended ceiling installation for the lobby of the REN residential tower in Seattle. This work of art gives shape, form, and physical and symbolic values to the interweaving roots of a tree. The concept and appearance of the installation, called, not surprisingly, Connection, originated from the twisted shapes and deep connections of roots.
The title of the work both hides and hints at the artist’s aim to communicate the profound importance of interconnection between humans and the greater force of nature – a common thread that runs through a lot of his work and gives his studio a unique identity. In this case, nature has been represented by reproducing, as part of an immersive installation, the roots of a tree suspended overhead. To create the meandering effect of the piece, the artist looked at various handmade articles with similar interwoven patterns, such as rope, the lashing used for canoes, and even baskets and hats.
For the work, the artist used yellow cedar for its neutral tones, fine grain, and local provenance, as well as its workability and flexibility. Used for numerous applications, the “collaborative” nature of this timber reflects the artist’s own intentions with the artwork.
To achieve the effect of continually intertwining roots, the material, after being extracted from the ground, was peeled and split by hand into long, thin strands. Beginning at the entrance, where the strands are more extended, they become more entangled as they move towards the center of the lobby.
A tree’s roots are a key source of nourishment, absorbing nutrients from under the ground to make the part above flourish. Connection was designed to mirror this phenomenon, placing human beings at a microscopic level as a metaphorical source of energy, amplified by interactions and relationships. The destination of this vital energy is unknown and invisible, but it induces a change of perspective, a reminder how the individual is insignificant compared to the planet, and how, as a community, we have a responsibility to give meaning to each other’s lives.
Location: Seattle, USA
Architect: Brent Comber
Client: CHIL Interior Design
Project Team: Chil Design, Fairview Developments, John M. Hochwalt, PE, SE
Photography by Dylan Priest, courtesy of Brent Comber Original