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SEA Airport Art Reflects the Evergreen State

August 31, 2021

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) recently widened its public art collection with new acquisitions in the North Satellite, home of the N Gates. While passengers landing at SEA do not always have the chance to visit the numerous wonders in the Evergreen State, the airport’s art program brings the Pacific Northwest into your travel journey. Among the newest acquisitions is a vibrant biophilic artwork, CANOPY by Krista Birnbaum

An article in Fast Company magazine titled, “What is biophilic design, and can it really make you happier and healthier?” explores it as “... an ethos that poses interior design not merely as an aesthetic or functional discipline, but as a way to improve people’s mental and physical well-being.” In its simplest form, it’s bringing plants from the outside to the inside. Scientific studies have indicated that proximity to nature improves everything from our health to our productivity. The article reported, “other research has shown that plants can reduce stress, help with focus, and even increase immunity.” 

This possibility, and the airport’s commitment to sustainability, inspired the first-ever collaboration between SEA’s art program and the Environmental Department to bring biophilic artwork into the passenger experience.  

Constructed in three panels, CANOPY is a preserved moss wall that brings together laminated layers of plywood that reference topographic maps, similar to those found in National Park Visitor Centers. With her 35-foot-wide vivid artwork, Birnbaum gives passengers a view into the natural magnificence of the Pacific Northwest. With the two natural elements of wood and moss, CANOPY references the epiphyte-covered tree canopy of our local rainforests. 

Photo of Canopy
Photo credit: Rafael Soldi

Birnbaum collaborated with two West Coast companies to bring her design to fruition. StudioFifty50, a Seattle-based design-make studio, used a CNC router to create the stylized branch forms. Planted Design, a woman-owned business based in Emeryville, California, added the preserved mosses that bring this vertical garden to life. Planted Design uses a chemical-free ingredient, vegetable glycerin, to “allow the plants to remain in their natural state, resulting in a maintenance-free piece of art made with moss that is as soft and vibrant as it is in nature.” No watering or light is needed! 

On the installation date in July of 2021, it only took a couple of hours for the Port Construction Services to install the three panels that represent years of design and planning. SEA’s art curator and Birnbaum were also present that night to assist during this exciting milestone.  

With its biophilic design, CANOPY increases our connection with the natural environment and contributes to the airport’s Pacific Northwest sense of place. 

Birnbaum grew up in Ohio and currently resides in Houston, Texas. She received an MFA from Syracuse University and a BFA from Miami University.  

Top photo credit: Rafael Soldi

Learn more about other green features of the North Satellite
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