The Alchemy of Vicki Scuri SiteWorks: 

The Meaningful Merging of Public Art, Landscape Design & Wayfinding

By: Jason Lahman for CODAworx

The list of challenges we face in the 21st century includes humanizing infrastructure and connecting our communities. America’s freeways cross the nation with long stretches of concrete. Even when interrupted by vines growing on walls or foliage planted in medians, this monotony rarely offers visual rewards to the commuters who travel these routes. Vicki Scuri and her SiteWorks team of collaborators focus primarily on creating public spaces that delight those who experience them, while addressing these challenges.

Dense interlocking ribbon patterns in precast MSE panels turn a wall into a fascinating abstract array of energized forms reminiscent of wind rippling over prairie grasses. East Kellogg Project, Wichita, KS. [photo credit: Vicki Scuri]

Vicki Scuri describes her goal, as an artist and designer, as: “to enhance public spaces in order to create a more livable and inviting built environment, to lift the human spirit, promote quality of life, and encourage passers-by to engage in social experiences. My works are perceptual, evoking emotional responses through the play of light and shadow over form, transforming the ordinary to the extraordinary through the use of common materials in uncommon ways.”

Transforming a project in this way requires the collaboration and cooperation of the entire project team. The East Kellogg Project; a collaboration with Williams Sale Partnership Limited, Transystems LLC and their subconsultants, in Wichita, KS; serves as an excellent example of this process. Its successful implementation even won over Donald Snyder, Kansas Department of Transportation, who remarked, “Very Impressive! I’m usually not a big fan of some of the artwork incorporated into transportation projects … but the LED lights and the artwork on the MSE and soldier pile walls on the current projects definitely seem like a worthwhile investment.”

At night, programmable LED lighting transforms the infrastructure into a beautiful community landmark. East Kellogg Project, Wichita, KS. [photo credit: Vicki Scuri]

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The seasonal shows run on fifteen-minute loops, moving through a variety of hues and patterns. East Kellogg Project, Wichita, KS. [photo credit: Vicki Scuri]

This collaborative work on the East Kellogg Project and Vicki Scuri SiteWorks’ kinetic sculptures, that function as welcoming landmarks at I-10 and Airway, the busiest intersection in El Paso, TX, present two key examples of Scuri’s ethos: giving emotionally resonant aesthetics to well-traveled sites. In each case, natural forms and climate inform the work. Vicki transforms the winds of the prairie, the forms of native plants, and the luminous colors of the desert sunset into rich visual elements that do not act merely as decoration, but become mnemonic devices, marking the landscape with distinct, celebratory symbols. 

See: Parting Shot Airway

Illuminated kinetic sculptures with functional wind turbines, have become well-loved landmarks. Airway, El Paso, TX. [photo credit: Vicki Scuri]

Inspired by desert blooms and sunsets, the array of sculptures has garnered the respect of visitors and locals, receiving high-praise from city officials for their simple elegance and immediate visual impact. Airway, El Paso, TX. [photo credit: Vicki Scuri]

“My collaborative work with Jacobs Engineering Group for the City of El Paso combines my interests in sustainable infrastructure with technology, culture and site,” says Scuri. “We collectively renovated aging infrastructure to form a new civic landmark and a powerful gateway to downtown and to the El Paso International Airport.” The project includes sixteen functional wind turbines, mounted on custom armatures, complemented by twenty-nine light sculptures to form a gateway and, what Scuri terms, “a light garden”. She continues, “the work is inspired by flight, industry, native plants, desert skies, and the colorful hues of Mexican blankets. It is a favorite El Paso landmark.”

Another example of Scuri’s elegant combinations of nature-based graphical forms with key infrastructural elements in public space include the merging of nature’s and human interventions into a whole in which each complements the other. Airway, El Paso, TX.[photo credit: Vicki Scuri]

Scuri’s use of materials varies with each project. Whenever possible, she works with sustainable materials that require minimal maintenance. Her collaborative work for the City of Kettering, OH, presents a good example of this. The appearance of the elegant gateway screens, fabricated in weathering steel, will patina and improve with age.

The tower and screens mark the turn onto Schantz Avenue. Schantz Gateway, Kettering, OH. [photo credit: PhotoKnackCreative]

The illuminated Art Deco inspired gateway provides wayfinding. Schantz Gateway, Kettering, OH. [photo credit: PhotoKnackCreative]

The inspiration for these grand metal gateways draws on multiple sources. Again, as with the work in Wichita and El Paso, specific references to local history and cultural artifacts create a resonating synthesis. “We were drawn to the beautiful Art Deco curves and angles of the area’s historic trolley cars and the punched patterning of National Cash Register antique cash registers. This part of the world is also known for historic innovations in flight, transportation, calculation, and many other technological advancements of the early to mid-20th century,” says Scuri. “We worked closely with Intelligence, Building and Infrastructure Group, the city, its stakeholders, and citizens to create a memorable gateway, that is experienced on two levels. The tower marks the turn onto Schantz Avenue and to the site of the future Dayton History Archives and catches the attention of drivers entering Kettering along the Dixie Highway,” explains Scuri.

The screens and tower create a memorable experience for drivers along the Dixie Highway. Schantz Gateway, Kettering, OH. [photo credit: PhotoKnackCreative]

At night, the screens and tower function as a community landmark and light beacon. Warm LEDs back-light the screens and towers when seen from above and directly light the screens when seen from below. Scuri points out that, “You’ll see diamonds and butterflies throughout these pieces. These act not only as inspiring design motifs but as symbolic reminders of the city of Kettering’s renewal marked by strength- the hardness and clarity of diamonds- and transformation- the miraculous metamorphosis of butterflies.”

See: Vicki Scuri SiteWorks, Schantz 2020

Vicki Scuri standing with several of the decorative panels that use traditional and cutting-edge enameling technologies, to be installed at the South Bellevue Transit Station,  in Bellevue, WA. [photo credit: Vicki Scuri]

For the South Bellevue Light Rail Station, Scuri is drawing on one of her oldest loves and a field in which she thrived as both teacher and successful gallery artist: printmaking. She explains, “Our team is creating a 900’ foot-long ribbon that is inspired by the nearby Mercer Slough. This ribbon will clad the acoustic panels of the guideway introducing color, human scale and pattern sequences that reflect the seasons. The work is fabricated in porcelain enamel on steel. Other amenities include colorful, painted column wraps that humanize the space with rotating leaf patterning.”

Scuri standing in front of an enamel panel showing the delicacy and bold details of her designs for the South Bellevue Transit Station, in Bellevue, WA. [photo credit: Vicki Scuri]

When asked about her public art career, in terms of the many collaborators with whom she’s worked, Scuri says that people outside the field often need to be reminded that such enormous undertakings require a wide variety of experts and makers. Working together with all of the stakeholders on a project is a core value of her team. Scuri says, “Public art is a team sport. Completing these large-scale projects isn’t possible without the collaboration and cooperation of interdisciplinary teams, including stakeholders, transportation departments and Public Art advocates who tirelessly work to bring culture into our daily environments, promoting wellbeing and a sense of place. My team is always looking forward to future collaborations, new challenges and opportunities, shaping an engaging, built environment and a healthy planet for all its peoples.”


See: Vicki Scuri projects on CODAworx


Airway Gateway, El Paso, TX, 2015
Sponsor: The City of El Paso, CRRMA & TxDOT
Project Team:
Artist: Vicki Scuri SiteWorks with Alexandr Polzin
Engineer: Jacobs

East Kellogg Improvement Projects I & II, Wichita, KS, 2020
Sponsor: City of Wichita & KDOT
Project Team:
Artist: Vicki Scuri SiteWorks with Alexandr Polzin
Engineer: Williams Sale Partnership Limited (WSP)

Schantz Avenue Bridge, Kettering, OH, 2020
Sponsor: City of Kettering
Project Team:
Artist: Vicki Scuri SiteWorks with Alexandr Polzin
Engineers: Intelligence, Building and Infrastructure Group (IBI Group)
Photo credits: PhotoKnackCreative

South Bellevue Station, Bellevue, WA, 2021
Sponsor: Sound Transit
Project Team:
Artist: Vicki Scuri SiteWorks with Alexandr Polzin
Architects: Perkins & Will