It’s been a while since my last post about our Pacific Northwest trip earlier this year. Time now to return to Seattle, Washington! I didn’t have time to visit any of the great public gardens, but I did spend a few hours at a very special place in the heart of the city: Chihuly Garden and Glass.
Opened in 2012 in the Seattle Center right next to the Space Needle and the Pacific Science Center, Chihuly Garden Glass is a museum showcasing the studio glass of Dale Chihuly, arguably the most famous American glass artist of our time. It consists of an exhibition hall, a conservatory (“Glasshouse”), a garden, as well as a café, lecture hall and retail space.
Space Needle seen from the entrance to Chihuly and Glass
In December 2013 I’d seen a large Chihuly installation at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ and I was eager to see which pieces might be on exhibit here—his home turf, so to speak.
I was not disappointed. The large-scale installations in the exhibition space were breathtaking.
Here are just a few photos. As you can see, the lighting is very dramatic. The dark backdrop really makes the saturated colors of the glass pieces pop.
As impressive as the studio glass in the exhibition hall was, it paled for me in comparison to the visual impact of the Glasshouse. The website of Chihuly Garden and Glass describes it like this:
The centerpiece of Chihuly Garden and Glass is the Glasshouse. A 40-foot tall, glass and steel structure covering 4,500 square feet of light-filled space, the Glasshouse is the result of Chihuly’s lifelong appreciation for conservatories. The installation in the Glasshouse is an expansive 100-foot long sculpture in a color palette of reds, oranges, yellows and amber. Made of many individual elements, it is one of Chihuly’s largest suspended sculptures. The perception of the artwork varies greatly with natural light and as the day fades into night.
I was dumbstruck by the impact this space had on me. There was nothing but glass, steel, and an undulating glass sculpture that brought to mind hundreds of umbrellas carried away by the wind. Simply breathtaking!
And the Space Needle, easily one of the most recognizable landmarks in the entire country, is right next door.
Time to step outside and look at the garden. Again, to quote the website:
Anchored by four monumental sculptures, the exhibition Garden provides an opportunity for discovery and surprise. A rich backdrop for the art, it features paths lined with trees, plants and flowers. Crimson camellias, scarlet daylilies, dogwoods, hardy fuchsias and handkerchief trees provide the setting for the Crystal and Icicle Towers and an installation of Reeds on Logs. At the center of this lush landscape, on a bed of black mondo grass, is the Sun, an explosion of yellow and orange.
Did I mention the Space Needle is right there?
The garden is divided into several distinct areas, each with its own color scheme: blue, orange, yellow/green, brown/white, and red. The planting beds are studded with Chihuly pieces ranging from tall and skinny reeds, to neodymium gazing balls, to swaying cobra-like sculptures. They are matched by plants in complementing colors. If you’re interested, you can download a complete plant list from here.
LEFT: Glass cobra sculpture RIGHT: Real cobra lilly (Arisaema sp.)
I visited Chihuly Garden and Glass twice: once in the early afternoon, and then again around 6 p.m. During my second visit, the Space Needle, bathing in the early evening sun, was reflected in many of the gazing balls.
Here are some photos I took as we were going up the elevator to the top of the Space Needle:
The dome is the Pacific Science Center and the gigantic flowers are by artist Dan Corson. Read about them here. Now take a look at the green roof on the right; that’s Chihuly Garden and Glass.
Distorted view of the garden at Chihuly Garden and Glass through the windows of the ramp leading up to the Space Needle elevator
Even if you’re not a big fan of Dale Chihuly’s work—you wouldn’t be alone—walking through the different areas of Chihuly Garden and Glass is an experience nobody will soon forget.