Commissioned in 2011 by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs to create public art for the LA Fire Department’s Air Operations facility, Matt Gagnon recently completed two installations at the Van Nuys Airport.
The site is a state of the art fire station housing all the department’s helicopters. Located down an alley behind warehouses at the Van Nuys Airport in Los Angeles the facility is responsible for protecting the entire LA region from wildfires, performing search and rescue and air ambulance operations as well as high rise firefighting.
The personnel stationed at the site are pilots, medics and traditional firefighters. Inside the entrance gate behind a row of nondescript warehouses, Gagnon designed a tower to proclaim the significance of the facility and assure the first time visitor that this is not another storage building.
Impressed by the white sculptural forms formed when the helicopters drop water on wildfires, Gagnon created a 32 feet tall folded steel structure to evoke a giant blast of water.
As the light changes at the site the crisp geometric steel panels soften and take on the quality of spraying water. In the dark the “Water Tower” acts as welcome home to the helicopters returning from incidents in the middle of the night.
A second piece, in the form of a giant speaking horn, was created for the lobby of the fire station. Suspended off the entrance wall, the 20 feet tall “Horn” has a matte black interior that is completely dark.
The outside is a brass epoxy coating polished to a high gloss. If someone walks beneath it a motion activated switch starts a recording of a LAFD Augusta Westland helicopter. It sounds distant but emerges quickly and the noise is loudly directed onto the person below due to the acoustics of the horn.
While historically a speaking horn or bugle was the way for firemen to communicate during an emergency and is now a symbol of rank, Gagnon was curious about the sound of modern rescue and the emotion, energy and noise that comes with that response.
What does the sound of an ambulance mean to a person waiting to be saved? The unexpected sound of a loudly approaching helicopter from an old fashioned symbol of firefighting is intended as a reflection on our society’s resolve to do what it takes to successfully save and protect the people of the city.
Matt Gagnon is a designer and artist working across disciplines to create objects of lighting, furniture, installation and architecture. His work is driven by a desire to find simple ways to create complicated things. His work has been widely published and exhibited internationally. Source by Matt Gagnon Studio.