in collaboration with skidmore, owings & merrill (SOM), artist phillip k. smith III has completed ‘santa monica linear’, a 9-meter (30-foot) -long monolithic reflective piece, floating on a verdant slope in california. commissioned for a private collection, the sculpture mirrors the surrounding eucalyptus trees, defining a tall wall of green on the northeast side of the client’s historic and sprawling ray kappe home and property. flanked by an early james turrell skyspace and a 12-meter (40-foot) -tall nancy rubins kayak sculpture, the artwork’s location holds ingrained importance when visiting the property.
all images courtesy of lance gerber
responding to the scale of the site, ‘santa monica linear’ takes shape as a long singular, monolithic gesture that inserts a horizontal line of reflected sky and treetops into the vertical plane of lush green landscape. phillip k. smith and SOM structural engineering director eric long sought to address the realities of the project, putting emphasis on the necessity for the mirrored plane to be a perfectly level, extruded form, free from internal structural elements that may cause shadows on the exterior glass. adding to the challenge was access to the site, which required crane and hand delivery. weight, ease of construction, and alignment were seamlessly integrated into the design and structural details, allowing contractors to assemble the work in a matter of days.
the experience of the piece and the environment extends as the day passes and the sun goes down. at sunset, the reflection of the glowing sky and onshore clouds merges with floating, shifting gradients of light across the surface of the work. reds emanate from the center and dissipate into reflection. a deep royal blue blends to a yellow across the work’s mirrored face. hazy purple gradients anchor the left and right, blending to the blackness of the night sky at center. the pace of the color choreography inspires stillness—like watching a sunset, presence and focus are the only requirements to witness awe-inspiring change. just as each day’s sky is entirely unique, so is santa monica linear.
smith’s other-worldly creations draw upon ideas of perception, space, form, color, light, shadow, environment, and ephemerality. drawn to sites where he can engage directly with the existing beauty of the surroundings, whether on the edge of the ocean, the middle of the desert, or amid urbanity, the california-based artist cites the elemental root of his work as change. for him shifting color variations, the movement from translucence to opacity, imply a sense of life or breath and is offered in abundance as the driving force behind projects such as ‘santa monica linear’. he seeks to create highly memorable experiences, seemingly ephemeral and directly conditioned by the specifics of the site.
edited by: myrto katsikopoulou | designboom