World Below the Brine

Work Program Architects and Piece of Cake Productions


Local architecture firm Work Program Architects (WPA) in partnership with Piece of Cake Productions and Rhiza A+D of Portland, Oregon submitted the winning design for the installation based on a national call from the City of Virginia Beach Office of Cultural Affairs. The challenge was to create an exciting interactive piece that transforms an empty lot into a new vibrant meeting place for the community.

Drawing inspiration from the vivid Walt Whitman poem of the same name, “World Below the Brine” will simulate the ever-changing landscape above and below the water’s surface. A canopy that captures wind and sunlight will translate both into a captivating "play of light through the water." A tall framework anchored by concrete benches will support a grid of 200 wind paddles with sand cast glass counterweights that undulate with the ocean breeze. During the day, visitors will walk below the piece and be covered in moving diffused light and shadow. At night it will be illuminated with LED lighting that will respond to the movements of visitors, creating the visual of a floating anemone visible to passers-by from Atlantic Avenue and the nearby Rudee Inlet Bridge.

“Placemaking is very important to our team and we are thrilled to be able to contribute to the vibrancy in and around Rudee Loop,” explained Thom White of WPA and head of the design build team. “The sculpture has been an amazing collaboration between our team of designers, artists, makers, fabricators, students, and the City of Virginia Beach, and we can’t wait to share it with the community and visitors to the Oceanfront.”

This project is made all the more special by contribution from the community to help construct this piece. Art students from Princess Anne High School, taught by Betsy DiJulio, joined the project team at the 757 Makerspace Dream Factory to assemble the 200 wind paddles in preparation for the artwork’s debut. DiJulio, an artist and National Board Certified Art Teacher at Princess Anne High School noted, “Our school is so gratified for this opportunity for our students to work on such a high-profile project with top-notch professionals. We believe that the best learning equally emphasizes rigor, relevance, and relationships. The rigor is embedded in WPA’s design and fabrication, and the relational aspects come into play through the collaborative nature of the process our students working side-by-side with the WPA team. The relevance lies in the authenticity of this real-life public art commission that resides at the fertile intersection of the public life and thoughtful, site-specific functional art.” Cast glass counterweights were fabricated by a team at the Chrysler Museum of Art’s Perry Glass Studio led by Jen Detlefsen.


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