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Weekly Art Hit: ‘Westlake Star Axis/Seven Hills’ by Robert Maki

Heading downtown to do some holiday shopping? Don’t forget to stop and look at the artwork you’ll probably walk by or through at Westlake Park across from Westlake Center. Robert Maki, working with landscape architect Robert Hanna, created Westlake Star Axis/Seven Hills (1988) as a design program to unite the triangular space of the park. Lying at the intersection of five major thoroughfares, the park occupies a central space in the city, making it a great location for artworks and architectural components that evoke both local history and geography.

At the north end of the park, a 24-foot-high stone proscenium arch evocative of Roman municipal monuments acts as a speaker’s platform with a set of three large stairs that provide seating. Next to the arch, a fountain creates a 64-foot-long wall of water cascading around steel ramps that allow visitors to walk through the center of the spray. For the entryway to the park’s south end, Maki designed seven sculptural elements, including a pink granite column and six cubic pieces, that symbolize the seven hills on which Seattle was built. The column also acts as a figurative point of origin for water that flowed to Lake Union, reinforced by an angled vertical slot carved into the stone that creates a line of sight down Westlake Avenue to Lake Union. A stand of 24 trees is located in the middle of the park.

For Maki, the precise angles created by the sculptural elements, running either parallel or perpendicular to the adjacent streets, are important to the meaning of the overall design. Depending on where visitors to the park stand, their relationship to the multiple sight lines and angles creates a shifting field of vision, allowing for new configurations of the park’s sculptural elements and the surrounding cityscape. Maki and Hanna’s design program is anchored by interlocking red, white and gray granite paving stones, patterned after a Salish Indian basket‑weave motif. The stone paving continues throughout the park and beyond the surrounding buildings, visually enlarging the park.

The seven sculptural elements, including a pink granite column and the six cubic pieces, that symbolize the seven hills are part of the city’s permanent public art collection and were funded by Seattle Parks and Recreation Forward Thrust 1% for Art funds and the Parks Department construction budget for Westlake Park.

Images: Robert Maki, Westlake Star Axis/Seven Hills, 1989, granite. Located at Westlake Park.

– Tamara Gill, Community Development & Outreach