30 interiors+sources march2017 interiorsandsources.com
THE ARBORVITAE MOBILE
Compiled by Kadie Yale and Jenna Lippin | Photography courtesy of Johnny Gordon
By Gordon Glass Studio
Johnny Gordon of Gordon Glass Studio in Louisville, Ky., established his own custom
glass design studio in 2005. Over the last 10-plus
years, Gordon has created custom designs for a
number of large commercial projects. One such
installation is at the Norton Brownsboro Hospital,
also in Louisville, which features a glass, copper,
bronze, and brass design that looks like hanging
tree branches with leaves. From each of the
branches hangs clusters of miniature mobiles
(think over a baby’s crib) that are made of copper
leaves wrapped in brass wire. i+s recently spoke
with Gordon to learn more about the project.
WHEN WAS ARBORVITAE DEVELOPED FOR THE
NORTON BROWNSBORO HOSPITAL?
It was created in 2009.
HOW DID THE NAME COME ABOUT?
“Arborvitae” means “Tree of Life.” I thought it was
pretty fitting for a hospital.
WHO DESIGNED IT?
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR
The hospital’s request was for a hanging sculpture
that promoted a “sense of healing,” incorporating
“modern and clean lines.” My immediate thought
was of walking through the woods—leaves fluttering
down in fall ... peaceful.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST HURDLE IN BRINGING
THE PROJECT TO LIFE?
The thing that concerned me the most was the
amount of movement I was going to be able to
achieve with the pieces hanging inside. There was
a lot of open space, so the branches needed to
be pretty substantial. There were two small vents
in the lobby wall that would blow occasionally and
allow me to adjust the direction of the air a little
bit, but I didn’t feel that I could count on that to
really move things around. I decided that having a
bunch of moving parts would work better.
HOW WAS THE RESPONSE TO THE PROJECT?
One of the benefits of having the installation here
in Louisville has been the constant feedback I get
from people. I’ve had friends tell me that someone
they know commented on how calming it was,
or how the leaves really caught the light. I’ve met
nurses and doctors who told me they like to stand
under it while taking a break. Overall, I would say
that it was a successful project for everyone.
WHAT IS YOUR HOPE FOR THE ARBORVITAE
Hospitals run the gamut of emotion, from the joy
of birth to the finality of death—the good news,
the bad news, and the waiting. My hope for the
mobile has always been that it provides a little
moment of peace and comfort to whomever needs
it. Something to watch that isn’t a television and
doesn’t require much thought. A little spot of Zen
amidst the emotional chaos.
ARE THERE ANY SIMILAR IDEAS ON THE HORIZON?
I have a few different ideas for similar suspended
projects—sticking with the nature theme and
using a lot of small movements through the
incorporation of glass and copper.
WHAT’S SOMETHING THAT PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
ABOUT THE PROJECT?
I made initial predictions of how many glass leaves
I would need to sufficiently cover each one of the
branches. I cut a little more than 600 glass leaves.
But once I finally started soldering everything in
place, I realized I needed to double the amount
that I had. As with any project, time was important
and dwindling. I cut and fired another 600 glass
leaves. My wife suggested that I invite some
friends and family to come to our backyard, eat
some food, and learn to wrap leaves; 40 people
showed up that Saturday and we wrapped more
than 1,200 leaves in total.
ABOVE + RIGHT Air vents provide
enough push to make the copper
mobiles spin lazily, and the glass
leaves give the branches enough
“sail” to push them in slow circles.