United States Courthouse

Fargo, North Dakota

National Artist Search/Competition
US General Services Administration: Art-In-Public Places

Architect: Leonard Parker Associates, Minneapolis, MN; Leonard Parker, AIA

National Design Competition & Project Administration: General Services Administration with Minnesota State Arts Board

Window Wall at Main Entrance
110.0' w. by 28.7' h.

As the main entrance to a United States Courthouse, its portico’s window wall demanded a dignified and subtle touch. The solution required over 7,000 tiny glass elements to be hand-applied on site.Over 6,000 German hand-pressed, fire-polished lenses and 1,250 dichroic glass squares are adhered to this window wall. By the conclusion of the artist selection process, construction was underway, meaning the glass elements had to be hand-laminated onto over 3,000 square feet of blast-resistant IGU’s that had already been installed.

Due to close proximity of buildings and the window wall’s bisection by the second floor, this expansive window wall defies both eye and camera to “see” it in its entirety – you just can’t get far enough away. Seen from street level, the composition mirrors the distinctive vaulted roof of the upper courtroom and flows around the Seal of the Court above the main entry portal. When viewed from outside, the design can be thought of as a single integrated composition. Once inside, it becomes two separate linear ideas seen from either of two levels. The one exception are views from the grand staircase that allow the entire height (but not width) of the window wall to be seen at once.

The lenses are primarily “white” opal glass which appear white in front-lighting, but surprisingly take one an amber cast when backlit. About ten per cent of the lenses are clear and colorless. They create movement and interest in the march of lenses across the window-plane. A small number of colored lenses can be discovered as one is carried along with the dance of the lenses.

Reflective dichroic squares twinkle as pedestrians and traffic move past. From inside during the day, these same dichroic squares become colorful details whose apparent color shifts as court workers and jury members walk past or sit in adjacent waiting areas. The chorus of lenses, each with its own glimmering, inverted cityscape, adds subtle, fascinating detail to those moving through the courthouse. The transparency of both lenses and squares enhances views out. In front-lighting (at night) the dichroic squares appear as golden mirrors that resonate with the shiny brass banisters and trim of stairs and railing.

Materials: German fire-polished lenses, dichroic glass, optically-clear UV adhesive on existing blast-resistant IGU's.