Seattle Center was built for the 1962 World’s Fair. When I left Seattle the area below the Space Needle was the run down Fun Forest amusement park. What has sprung up in its place is an equally fun forest, without the rides. The glass artist Dale Chihuly collaborated with architects and gardeners to bring this space to vibrant glassy life. Opened in 2012, it is one of Seattle’s most popular attractions, and was very crowded the afternoon I visited.
The indoor exhibits lead to the glasshouse, visible here in the background of my photo. This houses a 100-foot long suspended sculpture of huge flowers that seem to curl and float in space, as if they are growing and thriving in their own personal greenhouse. The windows seem to be pieces of the sky, colored with the same pale blue. Exiting this, you enter an enchanting two-acre garden with more than 350 kinds of plants including trees, shrubs and dense fern beds along with flowers. Designed to flower year round, the annuals, perennials, and 42,000 bulbs create quite a floral show. Most of the glass garden sculptures were made specifically for this display, except for the Pacific Sun, which is visible in the back right of my photo.
I spent a couple hours exploring inside and out, but kept returning to the gardens. On the ground, the glass spheres reflected the flowers, the sky, and some even mirrored tiny copies of the Space Needle. Wandering through the fanciful sculpture garden, it was an amazing hybrid of art and life, where the color palettes and shapes of the glass creations and garden flowers blended so seamlessly it was impossible to tell where the sculptures ended and the garden began. The question of whether art imitates life or life imitates art seemed to be answered here as both, with the sculptures surrounded by exuberant blossoms in endless reflection of each other.