Bridging Tacoma in Glass
Light streams through thousands of handcrafted glass objects resembling purple sea urchins, red reeds, and ruffled clamshells. We stand beneath a 50-foot ceiling along a portion of the pedestrian Chihuly Bridge of Glass which spans Interstate 705 in Tacoma, Washington. The longer we observe the art forms inspired by the sea the more details surface to our appreciative eyes.
The unique bridge and public art showcase features the creations of world-renown glass artist Dale Chihuly, a Tacoma native son. More than 200 museums hold collections of Chihuly pieces. Here, three distinctive installations reflect the creative leaps Chihuly has introduced to glass art and sculpture.
Dedicated in July, 2002, the 500-foot-long bridge links downtown Tacoma with the Thea Foss Waterway and the Museum of Glass. Below the structure, railroad tracks and the interstate spur run into the city.
Those walking across the span encounter the glass ceiling of the Seaform Pavilion, two ice blue Crystal Towers jutting skyward, and the Venetian Wall displaying 109 Chihuly sculptures. With traffic zipping underfoot visitors pause to view and photograph. Someone points to a buttery yellow form almost three-feet in diameter and comments on the undulating rim. Soon, complete strangers join in a show-and-tell of favorite colors, shapes and overlays.
Ardent admirers assume a prone position on the walkway, gazing upward. The flow of glass and color seems to pulsate – reminiscent of a gentle tide on a sandy beach. A slightly different angle produces an iridescence similar to an abalone’s inner shell. The ceiling incorporates 2,364 individual glass pieces.
Each of the glacial blue Crystal Towers standing 40 feet above the bridge deck are made of 63 large hollow Polyvitro crystals, not glass. Chihuly comments, “As with glass, it is really light that makes the Polyvitro crystals come alive."
The 80-foot long Venetian Wall showcases a colorful array of creations from three Chihuly series;
- Venetians – inspired by Venetian Art Deco glass
- Ikebana – in the spirit of traditional Japanese floral arrangements
- Putti – popular 16th & 17th century European art figures representing Cupid – the Roman god of love. Chihuly places his unique Putti atop classical vases.
As fascinating as the pieces are in natural daylight they become ever more dramatic under fiber-optic illumination at night. After dark illuminated colors intensify in contrast to night skies and pieces glow from reflecting headlights. Day or night strolling the Chihuly Bridge of Glass is the most artful way you’ve crossed an Interstate highway.
When You Go: The Chihuly Bridge of Glass is open 24 hours a day. A spectacular free display of original art in public places.
Related Post – Tacoma’s Museum District