Alderbrook Station, located slightly east of Astoria along the Columbia River, is the site of the former Union Fisherman’s Cooperative Packaging Company, which once supported a thriving salmon fishing industry. The Netshed is a 3-story timber structure which was used by fishermen to repair and store their gill nets. Inspired by the natural and man-made qualities that pervade Alderbrook Station, such as the movement of tides, the light that reflects off the Columbia River, the memories and history contained within and around Alderbrook Station, and the structure of the Net Shed itself, Robert Hutchison and Sarah Biemiller’s shared with us their proposal for an installation inside the Net Shed developed out of numerous influences. More images and architects’ description after the break.
The influences of their proposal include past installations by Biemiller, previous architectural investigations by Hutchison, and conversations and correspondence between both artists over the course of several years concerning the relationships between art and architecture. The final proposal involved a series of installations to be located throughout the Alderbrook Station Netshed.
Each of the structure’s three floor levels is penetrated by seven existing floor hatch locations spread uniformly throughout the building. The floor hatches were used to drag fishing nets vertically between the three levels. Today the site is owned by architects Daren Doss and Lisa Chadbourne, who use the Net Shed as a gallery for the display and exhibition of local artist’s work, and a venue for contemporary art installations. Daren and Lisa have kept the building essentially unchanged as they found it. The interior is littered with gill nets, tools, equipment, coffee cups, and old couches left by the fishermen who used the building to support their livelihood.
The specific location and dimension of each installation was dictated by the locations of existing floor hatches dispersed throughout the shed. Each installation was constructed of numerous strands of monofilament fishing line suspended from the bottom of the Net Shed roof framing. The resulting column of thread passed through the floor hatch openings down to the first floor level, where it was pulled taught and tied to metal eyelets that were screwed into the wood floor decking. To create subtle differences between the seven columns of thread, each column was assigned a different thread pattern. To heighten the relationship between first floor and roof, a rule was established that the fishing line never be permitted to touch the sides of the floor levels. Installation was complicated by the fact that none of the hatch locations at the second and third floor levels are in complete alignment.
The logistics of the installation required time-consuming documentation of the existing building, intensive pre-planning, and a high degree of precision, necessitating the use of laser levels to ensure that each fishing line was installed perfectly vertical. To connect the fishing line to the floor and roof surfaces, small stainless steel eyelets were screwed into the wood roof and floor, above and below each of the seven hatch locations. The fishing line was then fastened at the roof eyelet locations and passed down through the third and second floor levels, pulled taut, then fastened to the first floor eyelets.
Installations afford the opportunity to anticipate and learn from the unexpected. We could not anticipate how the qualities of the individual columns of thread varied by time of day, weather conditions, and the vantage point of the viewer. As one moved throughout the Netshed, some columns would disappear, while others would reappear. Physical aspects of the building, such as the timber frame and window mullions, were translated into the columns of fishing line through the medium of light.
‘7’ was dismantled after three months. The project was one of four projects awarded a AIA Seattle Honor Award for Washington Architecture. The jury members, comprised of Patricia Patkau, Nader Tehrani, and David Baker, noted the following: “This ambitious project is strongly located in a specific place and time, yet simultaneously entirely conceptual. Engaging history through the visceral evocation of memory, 7 repositions its context in a way that gives you immediate recall of its experience. Extracting two innate qualities of the existing environment – its post-and-beam structure and its wonderful quality of light – the work creates a new ephemeral structure that speaks to both but is neither. A great example of the integration of architecture and art, this conceptually ambitious project breathes life into the faded recent history of public art.”
Artist/Architect: Sarah Biemiller & Robert Hutchison
Location: Alderbrook Station Netshed, Astoria, Oregon, United States
Installation Team: Sarah Biemiller, Robert Hutchison, Jake LaBarre, Nicole Abercrombie, Dustin Stephens, Chris Armes, Sharon Khosla, John Armes, Olaf Broderman, Daren Doss, Lisa Chadbourne and Bella
Materials Used in the Installation: 33,077 feet of “Billfisher” Clear Monofilament Fishing Line (25 lb. test); 2,414 Screw Eyelets (Size 217 ½); 2,414 “Beadalon” Silver-coated Crimp Tubes (Size #2)