Four-story 'Basket of Light' embraces optimism of science

Towering 60-foot sculpture is new focal point of Hutchinson Center campus

SEATTLE — July 17, 2008 — It may seem a contradiction, but the new, landmark architectural sculpture at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center should strike observers as both monumental and delicate. That's according to its creator, architectural sculptor Ed Carpenter, whose installation team just put finishing touches on this 60-foot-tall glass-and-metal piece called "Vessel."

Carpenter characterizes "Vessel" as a centerpiece for the Hutchinson Center. "My intention was to create a sculpture that could not be anywhere else - that would feel right for this site and this institution both physically and metaphorically," he said.

"Rising more than four stories in a transparent and searching gesture, the sculpture employs light to represent the optimistic spirit of the institution," he said. "It is a luminous container for the aspirations and hopes of all involved."

"Vessel" is lit from the inside and outside at night; its open design encourages pedestrians to walk into its center.

To achieve the sculpture's light yet towering appearance, Carpenter used laminated and tempered safety glass to strengthen structural sections of aluminum, allowing longer spans at a lighter weight than with conventional methods. He rebuilt the structure with enhanced reinforcement after the partially built original sustained damage in a windstorm last October.

Carpenter, who is based in Portland, is an internationally acclaimed artist with pieces commissioned in Ireland, Australia, Taiwan, Japan and many locations across the United States. Regionally, his works can be found in downtown Seattle at the new U.S. Federal Courthouse, in Redmond at City Hall and in the Safeco corporate headquarters, and in Bellevue at Meydenbauer Center. He also played a key role in the redesign of the rose window of St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle.

Carpenter has been overseeing and participating in every step of the installation with a crew of longtime helpers; the structural portion of the piece has taken about six weeks to complete. The accompanying lighting and landscaping in the traffic circle at the Center's main entrance should be finished this week.

The commission of "Vessel" was made possible by a gift from the family of a former Center scientist who specified that the funds be used for the creation of outdoor art. The Center's art committee established selection criteria and initiated an international call for artists, eventually narrowing it down to six finalists. From there, the committee chose Carpenter's work after considering artist presentations and input from faculty and staff, who favored "Vessel" in an online survey.

Editor's note:
High-resolution photos of "Vessel" are available upon request. More information about Carpenter and his work, including "Vessel," can be found on the artist's Web site at


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