What is this?
Square panel of stretched, unbleached linen with four circles, each 11.5 inches in diameter, placed in the four quarters of the square. Each circle is produced by the progressive counter-clockwise placing of linen yarns across the diameter of the circle. A relief effect is created in the center of each circle as the yarns cross and build up one upon the other, casting a shadow.
Why is this important?
The Ford Foundation Headquarters, completed in 1967, was designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo Associates. Architect Warren Platner was responsible for the building’s interior. The design of the wall panels for the boardroom and auditorium was one of several collaborations between Platner and textile artist Sheila Hicks. At Yale, Hicks had studied with architects Vincent Scully and Louis Kahn, gaining an important understanding of architectural space. As a result, her site-specific works fully integrate with their environments.
The wall panels’ medallions in straight rows and columns create a quiet rhythm of visual interest. The orientation of the embroidered threads in each medallion is consistent, ensuring that each will capture and reflect light in the same way. For Platner, the embroidery of the wall panels was not ornament but a more visible and complimentary construction material. For Hicks, it was the first time that a contemporary textile was conceived of as integral to the architectural space, rather than as a decorative hanging. It was “a real breakthrough,” she later said, “… a pliable plane that was then brought into tension and became the actual wall.”