Denver Botanic Gardens: Osman Akan

26 09 2010

Getting to hear Osman talk about his new sculpture, Albedo, while watching it being installed nears the entrance of the Denver Botanic Gardens was an enlightening experience in many ways.

First, It was fascinating to hear Osman talk about his original vision for the piece and to hear how much the final product has had to evolve in its development from an idea to a reality.  With a project of such great scale that is meant to interact with its environment, there are bound to be obstacles that are not foreseen.  With Albedo, the original plan was to have a living wall on one side of the sculpture, but it turned out that this was not feasible due to the dryness of Denver.  Furthermore, the sculpture was originally meant to me more centered in the space and more freestanding, rather than closer to one corner and attached to the walls with arms.  These were just two of the many ways that Osman had to adapt the sculpture for it to become a reality.  Hearing Osman talk about this evolution highlighted the difficulty of compromising your original vision and coming up with a solution that still communicates your purpose as effectively.

I also found Osman’s discussion of the rules that you have to abide to when working on public art very interesting.  For example, the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs commissioned Albedo, so Osman had to come up with a concept that fit within the guidelines provided by this commissioner.  Furthermore, Osman explained that public sculpture must follow many of the same rules as architecture, particularly in terms of safety standards.   I was impressed by all of the extensive calculations that went into making sure the sunlight would never be reflected into a passing driver’s eyes in a way that could potentially cause an accident.  However, Osman also explained that once you have met those standards, you have more artistic freedom because no one has to live in the space.

While Osman was talking about his piece and the meaning of the word Albedo, which refers to an object’s ability to reflect sunlight, I could not help but wonder what the piece would look like at night.  Fortunately, Denver has 300 sunny days a year, so it is a good place to do a piece dependent on sunlight, but one still has to wonder how the piece will function when it is not sunny.  Osman stated that there would be lights installed in the ground to enhance nighttime viewing, but he admitted that it would no longer be a site-specific piece at night.  I am anxious to return to the gardens and view the final piece both during the daytime and at night.

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