A recent drive home took me underneath the Cass Avenue railroad viaduct, which has been dramatically re-imagined as a brighter, inviting public art space as part of a contest sponsored by Midtown Detroit Inc., the New Economy Initiative and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. I quickly parked my car to explore and snap a few pictures.
The project is called “Reflector” and is the work of artists Becky Nix and Olek Zemplinski, principles at bioLINIA. They were among three teams who each won $75,000 in a competition to remake three dark and foreboding underpasses on the Amtrak and freight railroad tracks and encourage more pedestrian crossing between neighborhoods.
From a car, it was an exciting and pretty surprise, as vehicle headlights make the 7,500 installed reflectors organically come to life, as if by dimmer switch. Alas, it’s something of an optical illusion; the pedestrian experience is altogether different, with a rich sea-green color and much more subtle, shifting light patterns and the sounds of traffic and the night ebbing and flowing. Fixed electrical lighting has also been vastly improved.
From the artists’ statement:
Our proposal, Reflector, provides a gateway, an in-between, and a visually interactive experience as one moves through the viaduct. We approach the project as a means to capture and reflect the light from those who offer it up to the viaduct. For those passing through, perhaps that provides a moment of thought, intrigue, contemplation, or simply an interesting place to move through or between.