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March 10, 1992

SANDLOT ARCHAEOLOGY

BY CLAIR ENLOW

Journal A/E editor

In her public art projects here and around the country, local artist Vicki Scuri has used references to the distant past, the present and the future to express a sense of place.

Scuri's local projects include tire-tread imprinted concrete (at the Boren Avenue Parking Garage), electronics-inspired relief patterns etched in marble (at the University Street tunnel station), and flowing lines cast in ceramic tiles (at the Westlake Station). In each, she has graphically codified symbols of place and repeated them in ordinary building materials.

At the Trilobite Tot Lot in Evergreen Park, co-designed by landscape architect Nakano Dennis and the artist, Scuri has reinvented the play area to encompass archaeology, technology and a fictive narrative.

There is no Lake in Lake Hills, and there are no hills in Evergreen Park. The Trilobite Tot Lot provides physical ``evidence'' of a fictitious history that supports the name of the neighborhood. It is the evidence of a lake of which nothing remains except the dry bed with fossils of ancient species.

There are no structures for climbing, sliding or swinging in the Tot Lot. Its only link to the traditional play area is the sandbox. Scuri expands on this basic fixture of childhood to cast toddlers in the role of field archaeologists - uncovering physical traces of history with their hands and plastic shovels.

Pavers imbedded with fossil forms represent the lake bed. The hard surfaces border large areas of sand, which represent the eroded hills and the beach of the lake. Placed one inch to one foot below the grade of the sand are additional pavers imprinted with fossil forms. These are intended to be ``found'' as the sand is shoveled, brushed away, or otherwise disturbed by children.

The design of the play area can be perceived on several levels, including that of the tot. Although most of the diggers do not recognize trilobites, discoveries are made - of a hard surface with an interesting imprint that is repeated many times on the site.

The Tot Lot is also designed as a contemplative place for adults and caretakers who find ample seating on the ledges created by the edges of the paved surfaces.

Over time, the Trilobite Tot Lot will come to have a life of its own - according to Scuri - living in the memory of the neighborhood children who have played in it and grown up with it.

The trilobite imagery was computer generated by the artist, and the repetition and kaleidoscope pattern of forms symbolizes the ways life regenerates life and how genetic codes reform and recombine as evolution progresses.

The computer images were etched 1/8 inch into 1/4 inch magnesium plates and translated into concrete through polyurethane formliners (at Precision Earthworks in Lynnwood). The formed concrete pavers were placed by hand on compacted rock and sand between pre-poured concrete sidewalks and curbs.

At the sand edge, pavers overhang the concrete curb, creating the ledge.

The concept for the Trilobite Tot Lot was co-developed by the team of artist Vicki Scuri with landscape architects Nakano Dennis and artist fabricator Chuck Greening for the Bellevue Office of Parks and Recreation. It was completed last year.


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