Piece by piece, Broadway’s Red Wall is finally coming down

We've been through a lot with this guy (Image: CHS)

We’ve been through a lot with this guy (Image: CHS)

More than five years after the demolitions that kicked off the massive project, the Capitol Hill Sound Transit light rail station is entering its final months of construction. As the station rises between John and Denny on Broadway, the various murals and art installations that have decorated the exterior of the surrounding plywood “Red Wall” are slowly coming down piece by piece.

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

(Image: Sound Transit)

(Image: Sound Transit)

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

CHS has reported on the anticipated ahead-of-schedule start of service for the U-Link extension connecting downtown to UW via Capitol Hill by early 2016. As for the red wall, a Sound Transit spokesperson indicated that all of the paneling will be gone by spring of next year, “contingent and subject to change based on contractor schedules.” It’s part of a slow transformation from the long period of construction that has dominated this stretch of Broadway. Earlier this summer, the giant construction crane that had towered over the site finally came down after three and a half years of hard work.

Some of the wall paneling, too, has already come down, with work on the pedestrian concourse shifting into its “eastern” side of Broadway phase last Monday resulting in the removal of portions of the south western wall lining the east side of Broadway and the bottle cap Slats exhibition.

So what of the murals and other works that have become customary backdrops and features of central Capitol Hill? They are all coming down, eventually, some sooner than others, and most are being returned to their original creators. A Sound Transit tweet confirmed the retention ownership of works by artists.

Some works are too ingrained in the red wall to be simply unhooked and taken back to the studio. The 24-foot by 120-foot self-portrait-with-owls mural that has dominated most of the East John street stretch of the red wall since 2010 — designed by local street artist Baso Fibonacci and painted by Zach Rochstad and Japhy Witte — will have to come down with the removal of the wall.

“I have no idea what I would do with 100 pieces of plywood,” said Fibonacci after CHS asked him what he was going to do with his work. According to the artist, the paneling wasn’t primed before the mural was painted and is “falling apart.” He did say that he will try and snag a few panels for himself before they disappear from the premises.

Around the corner from Fibonacci’s mural is Tory Franklin’s Fe Fi Fo Fum, a mural featuring a human scale digital print figure Jack scaling a painted tall and winding beanstalk. The creating artist said that she’ll be taking the printout of Jack back to her studio, though the tree will be history, seeing as it is also painted directly onto the paneling. Franklin said that Jack will be stored with other puppets for potential use in future installations.

The wall has seen a variety of works that have been cycled in and out, in addition permanent murals, all overseen by curator and lead artist D.K. Pan. Featured works have ranged from Tess Martin’s The Whale Story, a true tale of a fisherman’s connection with a passing whale retold via stop motion and mural painting, to Gretchen Bennett’s Crazy in Love, 10 hand rendered penciled video stills from both the Beyonce and Antony and the Johnsons version.

The project was funded and organized by STart, Sound Transit’s permanent (and temporary) art installation program that commissions a wide variety of nationally renowned and emerging public artists to feature their work at ST stations and construction sites.

The art won't disappear once Capitol Hill Station opens. The Jet Kiss sculpture will soon hang above the loading  platform

The art won’t disappear once Capitol Hill Station opens. The Jet Kiss sculpture will soon hang above the loading platform

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29 thoughts on “Piece by piece, Broadway’s Red Wall is finally coming down

  1. Please tell me the bottlecap Slats was saved by somebody?

    Some of that work should have been grabbed by MOHAI or another institution.

    Also… we’re right on the cusp now. Someday soon “old” Capitol Hill is going to be defined as “before light rail.” (Even if there are those us who already have other definitions — pre-Pike/Pine, pre-Grunge / pre-Linda’s, pre-Vivace coffee cart — I expect all of those will be washed away by the B.ST and A.ST divide).

    • Totally agreed – I hope that some of this art is preserved as a remembrance of this time of transition and change on the Hill.

      The “self-portrait with owls” piece has really grown on me, and I am sorry to hear it’s not in great shape. I will miss it when it’s taken down – wish it could somehow be incorporated into the station.

    • Also, “old Capitol Hill” will be remembered for single family homes and apartment buildings that were not all cookie-cutter “five over one” buildings that had no real character at all. But I guess the mantra is density is king. And make those $$$$.

      • Single family houses don’t belong in a city. It is inevitable for them to disappear.

        Density is king because is more sustainable, it allows more people to enjoy the same offer of services and amenities and reduces dependency on cars.

        We started building apartments on the Hill 80 years ago (which replaced other family houses). Nothing new going here.

      • Yes! Agreed, single family houses that can house families of 3 or more should all be torn down. Families with kids in need of more space should NOT live within city limits form here out and if they do, they should cram into a 2500 a month studio like all the homogenous hipsters that are now filling every square inch of the hill. DOWN WITH HOUSES. MORE BOXES. NOW!

      • High density housing does NOT reduce cars. If anything it increases them. More people live in the area, but still need to go places, so they have cars. Building a working transit system that actually reached all parts of the city, and I mean reaches it to the extent that disabled can also get to all the areas, is the biggest thing to reduce cars.

      • Bravo! Well-said. If Seattle desires to be a national leader in urban sustainability and green-living, density must increase.

      • My memories of “old Capitol Hill” are of vacant lots, deteriorating old houses, and earthquake prone brick buildings. Yes, we have lost some gems, but overall we are better off now than we were 35 years ago when I moved here.

      • I moved up here in the 80s (hence my reference to the Vivace cart, back when David was all there was to it) and I agree. Seems to be less heroin around, also, but maybe that’s just because I’ve aged out of that scene.

    • The bottle caps making up the Slats piece have become so faded and rusted that you can’t really make him out anymore. It’s basically just a sea of various shades of brown.

      • The Slats piece was not built to last, so let’s remember it as it was. I’m sure somebody got a good photo. Not all art is permanent.

  2. Sound Transit, or Fibonacci should auction off (or just sell) panels of the big mural and donate the funds to local arts orgs.

  3. Glad to see the walls coming down. More than ready for buildings to rise from the ground. Its been an open wound for far too long.

    With all the change thats taking place, I’m thankful I have been around long enough to remember what once stood where.

  4. Maybe I’ve just now noticed the green “bird house” but does anyone know if any real birds have adopted it for their use?

  5. You can use Google street view to take a time machine back as far as 2007 when all of the old business were still in place and operating where the red wall currently stands. I moved here in fall of 2008 so most of the businesses were gone by then but the buildings were still intact. I’d forgotten what it looked like.

  6. Thanks for the photos. Unlike Seattle, Sound Transit did not seem to have a curated website with photos of the ‘temporary’ art. I emailed them and strongly suggested that they do so. Seems like after living with and enjoying for so long, it would be nice to have a visual memory.

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