Pillars of dreams

valerie c. woodard center - charlotte, north carolina


Pillars of Dreams enlivens the plaza of the newly renovated Valerie C. Woodard Center, a county building that houses a number of departments and local services. It makes a curious impression from the street. Along the path to the building's entrance, the cloud-like pavilion makes a soft landing in a field of quiet moments and curious interactions. Open columns drop down from the floating canopy into a field of seating, open paths for wandering, and unbounded spaces for self-assembly. More than an idiosyncratic space for individual discovery, Pillars of Dreams establishes a public agora for visitors and employees at this important community interface between local government and Charlotte-Mecklenburg residents. 


The white exterior face shrouds the saturated coloration on the interior. Openings in the veil suggest the the energy inside, where cross-laminated stripes in a set of bright hues peek out from the interior. From a distance, the structure strikes a soft tone, but the viewer can still register the pulsing glow of the gradient within. It catches the eye from the street, but must be approached to be understood. The intensity of color grows as one nears the pavilion and finally envelopes the viewer upon entry--curiosity rewarded.


Meant to be moved through rather than appraised as an object, it's pillars open toward the interior to reveal an atmosphere that tempts you to linger. The airy structure offers relief from the sun but also casts dynamic light through its porous surface. The space within, full of color and dappled light, inspires curiosity, collegiality, and a renewed spirit of place. There are even a few choice locations for a little bit of hide and seek.


Labyrinthine parts in two colorways comprise the two faces of the ultra-thin skin. Produced by parallel agent-based search protocol, the non-linear stripes are the result of the indecisive behavior of the agents, which change their attitudes in tight turns. As they come together at seams and make their way to the ground, they find alignment as linear stripes. Across the ballooning expanses, they express the recursive quality of the computational description. Bifurcations and splits in the pattern tighten and spread to produce porosity. Like bubblegum blown just to the point of popping, the skin becomes thinner and more open across the wider expanses of the spheres, allowing light to come through. Where the volumes merge, the stripes between them become more densely packed, lending to the structural performance.


Pillars of Dreams is an experiential icon on the plaza at the new Valerie C. Woodard Center. Under these curious vaults, where color meets light, locals have an inspiring place to gather, to recharge, to revel, and, perhaps, to daydream.


Pillars of Dreams is an original work commissioned by Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, the Charlotte/Mecklenburg Public Art Commission and Arts and Science Council - Charlotte/Mecklenburg.


Dimensions: 26.5’ H x 23’ W x 43’ D
Material: two layers of 3mm aluminum
Linear Cut Distance:  11,000 meters
Number of Parts: 3,564
Number of Rivets: 54,000

Photography by NAARO.



Renderings from the competition.