Elks Children’s Eye Clinic Sensory Garden

Working with Mayer/Reed at OHSU

Landscape architects Mayer/Reed commissioned Bullseye Studio to fabricate a series of kilnformed glass components for the exterior of the award-winning facilities of the Elks Children’s Eye Clinic, at OHSU in Portland, OR. The L-shaped glass components were successfully installed as part of a textured wall in the clinic’s outdoor “garden of the senses.”

Installed in fourteen sets, each set of components shares a single colorway. All of the sets, however, contain three differently-sized components for a total of 42 glass elements. The three sizes are: 5.5” x 20”; 3.5” x 26”; and 1.25” x 30”—with all components measuring 1.5” thick.

Glass in the Outdoor Sensory Garden

The clinic’s sensory garden teems with a variety of native plants curated for their complementary colors, fragrances, and even the interplay of their rustling sounds. That meticulous level of design extends to the garden’s feature wall.

The wall is made of cast concrete. Its texture and color connect it sensorily with the surrounding walkways and buildings of the neighboring Casey Eye Institute. Thanks to Mayer/Reed’s design, however, the length of the wall is punctuated with a rainbow palette of forty-two L-shaped kilnformed glass components, which drape over its top and run down its front face. Visually, these glass fixtures evoke the light spectrum, offering a dynamic visual feast to people with low sight and full vision alike. Tactilely, they stand in pleasing textural contrast to their concrete mounting. Symbolically, the lively optical properties of the glass represent the biological and technological marvels at work in and around that space. Practically, they provide the facility’s grounds staff with an easily cleanable outdoor feature, and, given proper, low-maintenance care, the kilnformed glass will prove as durable as the wall on which it is mounted.

Fabricating the Wall Components

To help realize Mayer/Reed’s vision for the garden wall, Bullseye Studio custom fabricated each of the fourteen sets of components to match specific color and transparency/opacity levels. This process involved a production method known as frit tinting. In frit tinting, small amounts of glass powders of different colors and color densities are mixed into a body of crushed clear glass and fused together to form a final custom color. Similar to the way painters mix paints to achieve one-of-a-kind colors, Bullseye Studio iterated with frit combinations and concentrations until arriving at a target color and transparency/opacity in the kilnformed glass.

Once the project’s fourteen target colorways and saturations had been successfully achieved, the fabrication could begin in earnest. This entailed kilnforming oversized slabs in the aforementioned 14 colors then fashioning them into their three L-shaped forms using custom casting molds.

After the components were cast into their final kilnformed shape, each received intensive surface processing in Bullseye Studio’s CNC machine. Finally, fabricators hand polished the 1.5” sides to a high gloss, while leaving the outer-facing surfaces of the components to bear the subtle texture of their kilnforming molds, thereby serving the goal of maximizing textural contrasts.