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Our Garage is All Buttoned Up

October 24, 20183 minute read

WSECU has added to the artistic and architectural landscape of the South Sound with the installation of "Buttons," a large scale public art project designed by artist Christian Moeller. The work re-faces the credit union's Olympia campus parking structure with an eye-catching treatment and design.

"WSECU's Board of Directors sets the expectation that we build high quality facilities that complement and add to the neighborhood," said Ann Flannigan, Vice President of Public Relations. "When they were presented with options for how to re-clad our headquarters garage, the Board loved the idea that it could include a public art component that could be enjoyed by the community. So they took a chance on a direction that's playful and bold."

The artwork is 42 feet tall and covers the WSECU parking structure over a surface of approximately 24,000 square feet. The "canvas" of the artwork is made of galvanized chain-link fence and is mounted with the help of vertical tension cables in 12' wide panels to the building structure. A total of 235,000 discs - or "pixels" as Moeller describes them - are made of injection-molded white vinyl. The discs are attached to the fencing in a style reminiscent of pointillism. They contrast with the darker background to form a large image - layers of scattered clothing buttons, evoking a magnified view into a grandmother's button box.

WSECU opened the parking structure in 2009. At the time, the garage siding included hundreds of glass panels that served both an aesthetic and functional role. In 2012, the glass panels were removed out of safety concerns after two panels shattered and fell. The City of Olympia's expectations were for WSECU to re-face the building to an aesthetic standard similar in intent to the original design. The credit union's architecture firm, NBBJ, included Moeller's approach as one of three for WSECU to consider.

"The City has been working with WSECU since the day the first decorative glass panel failed to have the new façade installed," said Keith Stahley, the City of Olympia's Director of Community Planning and Development. "It's wonderful to see artwork installed and the parking structure made whole again. Congratulations to WSECU for their commitment to finding and executing a workable solution."

The installation's imagery of buttons evokes connectivity, fastening, holding and the joining of two pieces of fabric. Flannigan said that for WSECU, that fabric is the community they serve. A source for Moeller's inspiration was the concept of a grandmother's button box, which is a sort of treasure chest holding a collection of button mementoes one can sift through representing history across generations. Moeller has had an accomplished career in public art installations. He was born in Germany and began with an architectural background and a strong interest in large scale two- and three-dimensional works and their integration into public space.

Moeller is professor and chair of the Department of Design Media Arts at UCLA and operates an independent studio in Silver Lake, CA. His media installations and art have been exhibited worldwide.

"We've been delighted at the response so far by people discovering the new art," Flannigan said. "The feedback has been wildly positive, and it's been fun to watch people come by, look up, and engage with the building in a whole new way. We think it will become a treasured landmark for Olympia."



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