Audio Transcript for Log Ramps by Lloyd Hamrol
Lloyd Hamrol is nationally known for his projects in the landscape, which he began in the early 1970s. His sculpture Log Ramps was his second site project. The ramps form triangular sections made with Douglas Fir and Hemlock logs. The four ramps are positioned so that you can climb up them to a height of 8-feet and see an imaginary circle inscribed within the center as well as the view around the sculpture. Besides accenting geometric shapes, Hamrol primarily intended the work to evoke references to ceremonial architecture, protecting enclosures, and the natural resources of the Northwest. His work for Western integrates the properties of the land, surrounding trees and architecture. His story of how his work originated on campus is typical in the history of the collection where artists were often invited to campus for workshops. Hamrol reflected back on his stay at Western.
“…I began developing the concept through drawings and models in my studio before I came to Western. Those early concepts were important because I knew that we would need the entire quarter just to construct the work. I wanted to have a concept fairly well in mind and worth presenting to the class of 15 students. I introduced the concept as a site-specific sculpture which took as its general reference the idea of primitive Northwest shelter. In my studio, I had envisioned the four ramps covered with sod and continuous with the surrounding grass to suggest that the structure was an eruption of the earth’s surface or a pealing back of the earth. But, that idea really proved impractical as I began to explore it, since it was unlikely that the sod was going to stay on those ramps. Eventually the whole thing was going to rot and fall back to the earth. I didn't like that idea at all because I was looking for something more permanent than that. So, the notion of shelter and gathering place became the compelling concept.”
“During construction and subsequently, I began to see that I really was interested more in a gathering place and in an interactive, site-specific work than anything else. So, this project was seminal in the conceptual development of other pieces. It is like making art itself - nothing really develops in a clear linear fashion. I had been involved in participatory works of a temporary nature for some years before the Western project. I had already planted my feet and feelings very squarely in an area that involved a participating audience. But, I hadn't really brought that value into a site-specific situation or a permanent work. So in that respect, Log Ramps became a point, an intersection in the development of my ideas. Formally speaking, it descended directly from some smaller conical pieces that I had done a few years earlier, but they were ones with interior spaces that were difficult, if not impossible, to penetrate. So, Log Ramps was a breakthrough piece. I mean literally breaking through the walls and opening the interior to the outside. Nice way to think about it.”
Hamrol’s work had to be rebuilt due to the construction at its original site by Parks Hall. The history of the work is a classic tale on campus, but most importantly, Hamrol reveals in his own way the successful evolution of the work in the face of unintentional obstacles within a university community.
“Originally the work was not built where you see it today. From 1974 to1981, it was located where Parks Hall now stands. When I arrived on campus for this project, the Facilities Planning Office took charge of the logistics of the project and offered me the Parks Hall site with the understanding that the vacant site fell within the future building master plan. Apparently, there was an increase in state funding which allowed the plan to be accelerated, so Log Ramps was demolished. Every bit of it had to be rebuilt on the present site. I originally was offered some other options, but I chose that first site because of its proximity to a major campus path and because it was across the path and adjacent to the Environmental Sciences building. I liked the work speaking to the natural environment and being an architectural antithesis to the new Environmental Sciences building, which was a very state-of-the-art building at the time. Since Log Ramps was close to the campus path it was easy for students to see it, leave the path, and climb up the work. Also appropriate, the work is an ad hoc classroom in relation to the Environmental Sciences building. I saw it frequently used in that manner and everybody seemed to enjoy the experience. So when we moved the piece, I wanted to keep it in the same general area and really the only place left was the present site. Any further north, we would have run into Richard Serra’s Wright's Triangle. I like where is it sited now, still in relation to the campus walkway, classrooms and general architecture. In fact, I think it is more comfortably sited now than it was originally because it seemed, back in 1974, to be under scaled for the size of those broad fields. Even though we suffered an embarrassing catastrophe, we claimed victory in the end by having a better built piece in a better site.”