The Kopp’s Meditation Garden, when completed, will include 8,000 pounds worth of beautiful glass art pieces in the shape of eight large cubes that will appear to be floating off the ground.
And while 8,000 pounds is quite a bit, it’s a far cry from the massive amount that would have been needed for a design approved by owner Karl Kopp back in April 2011.
That plan called for 8-foot diameter culvert tubes separated by large glass disks. Local artist Catherine Lottes estimated those disks would have required 100 tons of glass—or approximately 200,000 pounds!
“And that would have been quite expensive to make, transport and install,” Lottes said.
Lottes’s initial instinct, she said, was to “dematerialize” the project, making it more environmentally friendly, and more practical to fabricate and install. Lottes suggested replacing the metal, horizontal tubes with vertical, curved planes, reducing the amount of metal needed by about 75 percent.
“There were practical considerations for the site—a busy, suburban location—and limitations in budget, scale and purpose to consider as well as durability,” Lottes said. “Karl also had distinct preferences in color as well as symmetry and repetition of form.”
Instead of using painted steel for the planes, Lottes opted for anodized aluminum—easier to handle and more durable—in 6-foot by 12-foot curved sheets. The alloy that was used would not go completely black, so the sunlight catches golden undertones which are very subtle and change with the light and shadow all day long.
The glass cubes also went through an evolution process. Large glass discs became a pyramid-style structure before Lottes and Kopp settled on the cubes.
Each 44-inch square iridescent glass panel (five per cube), resembles raw fire opals, and is made from recycled oven windows that have a heat reflective coating on them. The glass elements were fabricated entirely in-house at Lottes’s studio in Riverwest, each one taking five days in the kilns before being safety laminated and cut to size.
The final design reduced the amount of glass needed by 95 percent less than the original plan.
A crew from Paul Davis Restoration expertly helped install the aluminum panels and glass cubes during an unusually warm week at the end of November, and Lottes and assistant Dan Dricken have been working on them ever since.
The cubes will be lighted from the inside, and there is some landscaping that might not be completed until spring, but Lottes hopes the finished project is one the community will come to enjoy and appreciate.
“Public artwork is often controversial and rarely pleases everyone. I suspect people will respond to it in a variety of ways,” Lottes said. “One of my goals as a glass artist is to give new life to discarded glass. Making the glass cubes hollow and lighting them from within will give them a variety of interesting looks during the day and night.
“The aluminum screens are meant to block out some of the noise and distraction of the traffic as well as offer more privacy. … The visual elements offer a variety of contrasts in color, texture, light, surface, shape and materials, with the ever-changing effects of light and shadow.”
Lottes said she’d like to see the garden be utilized for other types of temporary or changing artwork in the future, including soundscapes, music, performance pieces and possibly even contemporary dance.
Editor’s note: Catherine Lottes is the owner of Lucid Glass and her artwork can be seen locally in the Menomonee Valley Stormwater Park along Canal St. east of Miller Park and west of Falk under the 35th St. viaduct, in the Potawatomi Solstice lounge, in the lobby of the building at 311 E. Chicago St. at Lapham Park and elsewhere.