May 10, 2013 1:12 PM by Faye DeHoff

Bringing the 'bling' to downtown Tucson

TUCSON - An art installation of iridescent glass tiles is in the process of being erected on the façade of Pima County's new courts complex, bringing a little more bling to northern Downtown.

The architectural art project, called 'Desert Mosaic', is comprised of 623 square feet of dichroic glass-coated tiles. The highly reflective, multi-hued glass changes colors and intensity with shifts in vantage points, angles and lighting. Dichroic glass is produced through a high-tech process that was originally developed for the aerospace industry and that involves a thin layer coating of metal oxides created by lasers in a sealed chamber.

Approximately 15,000 3"x3" dichroic glass squares make up the piece. With County policy requiring the set-aside of one percent of a project's budget for public art, the $317,000 public art component was administered by the Tucson-Pima Arts Council, under contract to Pima County. The policy has been in effect since 1990.

County art projects more typically lean toward sculptural pieces. But in this case, since the art is installed 48 feet above the lobby floor, it will serve as a landmark to help visitors to Downtown distinguish between the new court complex and other court facilities, such as Superior Court, City Court and federal court.

"It also just brings an exciting sparkle to the space because of its energetic interplay of light," said County Facilities Manager Reid Spaulding.

The piece was produced by artist Gordon Huether, whose career has focused on large-scale art pieces integrated into architecture and landscape. Half of the panels were set this week. The remaining half is expected to be set in place the week of May 20.

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