Cree to fund 'shimmer wall'

The semiconductor maker will donate $1 million for Raleigh public art project

Staff WriterMay 17, 2007 

— After searching for more than a year, the city has found a company to pick up the tab for the "shimmer wall," a piece of public art that will adorn an outside wall of the new convention center.

Durham-based Cree Inc., which manufactures semiconductors for LED lights, will give $1 million for the project. Wednesday evening Mayor Charles Meeker signed a contract with the company at an outdoor ceremony next to the convention center construction site.

New details that were released Wednesday show the shimmer wall will be made up of nearly 80,000 4-inch squares of aluminum hanging on louvers in 4-foot-square grids. An oak tree -- Raleigh's symbol -- will be depicted on the panels, which will ripple in the breeze as traffic whizzes past on McDowell Street.

The art wall will reflect the colors of its surroundings, catching the southern and western sunlight during the day. At night, 56 fixtures with light-emitting diodes from Cree will back-light the shimmering squares and will change colors as programmed.

The more than 9,000-square-foot wall will provide a signature entry into downtown Raleigh, Meeker said.

"It's something we're going to be known for," he said.

Cree's John Palmour called it "a stunning marriage of art and technology."

The mayor told onlookers that he couldn't recall the city ever receiving an art gift anywhere near the $1 million from Cree.

He didn't mention the one that got away.

Last year businessman Jim Goodmon offered the city $2.5 million to help pay for a hydro-electronic abstract sculpture from internationally known artist Jaume Plensa. In September, a frustrated Goodmon withdrew his offer after the city said Plensa's proposed art work was too costly and impractical.

This was Meeker's second major arts announcement this week. On Tuesday he said four new arts festivals would be launched in the coming year, thanks to pledges by nine companies and the City Council.

The deal with Cree follows the city's partnership with the semiconductor company in December when more than 100 LED fixtures were installed in a downtown city parking deck. The city plans to install more than 500 more of the energy-saving lights in the new underground parking deck for the convention center and in two parks, Meeker said Wednesday.

The city is still trying to find corporate sponsors for a fountain and tower that are planned as public-art components of the convention center, which is scheduled to open in 15 months.

The shimmer wall will be spread taller than pedestrian-level on a wall that will house heating and cooling equipment, which would otherwise be a bland side to the new building. It was developed by the convention center's design team, which is made up of three architectural firms.

Staff writer Craig Jarvis can be reached at 829-4576 or craig.jarvis@newsobserver.com.

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