Public Art Commission approves proposal for private development

"Frequencies" receives unanimous vote

Innovation. Technology. Sustainability. These were the buzzwords at Palo Alto's Public Art Commission meeting on Thursday, Feb. 19, where commissioners voted unanimously to approve a public art project for a private development. Slated for 1050 Page Mill Road, the former home of social media company Facebook, the proposed public art installation consists of five, 22-foot-tall structures that will be clearly visible from the road and accessible to the public. The perforated aluminum structures are inspired by the curvature of sound waves, and will be lit at night with green LED lights. Designed by Barbara Grygutis, who was selected from a pool of more than 20 artists, the approved project will now move forward to design refinement, engineering and fabrication. Installation is currently aimed for early 2017, at a total budget of $500,000, which will be paid entirely by the developer rather than the City.

The site for the proposed public art project, which is part of Stanford Research Park and stands on land owned by Stanford University, was purchased by Sand Hill Properties in 2013. San Francisco-based Form4 Architecture is currently conducting a renovation of the property. The developers initially proposed a public art installation for the site in May 2014, and are now working closely with the Commission and the artist, as well as with the architect and landscape designers Studio Five Design.

According to the commission's Public Art in Private Development Ordinance which became effective in January of 2014, all new commercial developments wishing to install public art, including remodels of space 10,000 square feet or more, must submit a proposal to the Public Art Commission for approval.

Public Art Commission staff liaison Elise DeMarzo has been hired by the developers to serve as project manager, and will oversee the process from design through installation.

At Thursday's meeting, Grygutis presented images of her proposed design, along with graphics of the proposed location of the piece's five components and renderings of the structures in relation to the surrounding buildings. Grygutis has previously designed scores of public art works for sites across the country. Her laser-cut metal works take advantage of both natural and artificial light, and combine industrial durability with delicate lines and curves. The work she has designed for Page Mill Road, titled "Frequencies," incorporates the concept of sound waves both in the S curve of its overall structure and in its surface patterns.

Commissioners praised the way the project complemented the existing architecture and allowed natural light to pass through its walls during the day as well as being lit more dramatically at nightfall.

"It's basically a light box," Grygutis acknowledged, noting that "Frequencies" will be "extremely visible" from Page Mill Road, and that curious passersby will be able to approach the works on foot. Nearby plaques will provide information about the project. Grygutis also noted the design's thematic links to technology and noted the way "Frequencies" picked up on the "innovation curve" reflected in the site's architectural design.

Commissioners Dara Silverstein and Kathleen Kavanaugh recused themselves from the vote based on their employment at Stanford, with commissioners Jim Migdal, Ben Miyaji, Nia Taylor and Vikki Tobak voting in favor of Grygutis' design.

The approval of the project followed Public Art Commission elections. Commissioner Migdal was named Chair, replacing Kavanaugh, whose term expires in April of this year. Vice Chair Miyaji was re-elected to serve another term.

More information about "Frequencies" is available in the City of Palo Alto's staff report to the Public Art Commission.

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5 people like this
Posted by Double check
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2015 at 10:58 pm

I love art, and I love public art. I just want to ask -- has anyone just run something of this type by the Audubon Society just to be sure it's not a hazard for birds? The wrong kind of structure can be a deathtrap for birds, something I don't think anyone would want.

Just to be sure before it gets built.

5 people like this
Posted by shani kleinhaus
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 21, 2015 at 11:48 pm

Hello Double check,
I am Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society's Environmental Advocate. I do not think this sculpture would be a hazard for birds. It is not transparent nor mirror like, so birds should be able to avoid collision,
Thank you for your concern

4 people like this
Posted by Double Check
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2015 at 12:10 am

Dear Shani,
Thanks so much for the confirmation! They look pretty cool, I'm glad to know they won't be a bird hazard --

5 people like this
Posted by Polly Wanacracker
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 22, 2015 at 7:07 pm


3 people like this
Posted by j
a resident of University South
on Feb 23, 2015 at 2:25 am

I'd rather just see the birds fly over.

5 people like this
Posted by Suggly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 23, 2015 at 8:13 am

Looks like the eerie remains of some ancient cemetery!

2 people like this
Posted by eileen stolee
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 23, 2015 at 11:25 pm

Not sure about the green, LED lights. Soft white maybe, but green? Please re-consider the color choice or even having lights at all… The art stands for itself in the day. No need to see it flashing all night too, OK? Just my humble art lover opinion.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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