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Hidden in Plain Sight: The Art at Ottawa’s Hurdman Station

Soaring above the daily rush of transit riders, a graceful metal sculpture winds its way through Hurdman Station in Ottawa, Ontario. The artwork, installed in 2018, features seven ribbonlike segments that weave through the entrance of the major transit hub located southeast of Ottawa’s downtown core.

The name of the sculpture, Coordinated Movement, reflects the inspiration that artist Jill Anholt drew from the migratory patterns of birds that pass through the area. It also evokes the purpose of the station, where riders can hop on the O-Train or connect to a vast selection of local and rapid transit bus lines.

The sculpture traces the physical path that transit riders take from the fare gates all the way up to the train platforms. It begins just outside of the entrance of the station and reaches towards the upper level where trains arrive and depart. On the westbound platform, transit riders are able to stand next to the tail end of the sculpture on the other side of a glass wall, a subtle reminder that the artwork that welcomed them into the station is seeing them off as well.

While people need to climb flights of stairs, ride an escalator, or take an elevator to reach the train platform, the sculpture flows to the top level of the station effortlessly from the outside, bringing to mind the easy freedom of birds in flight. It encourages transit riders to notice that the station is not only a place that facilitates movement from one point in the city to another, but also a site where an incredible amount of movement takes place.

A sense of movement is further established by the overall shape of the art piece; at the main entrance, the metal bars are perpendicular to the ground, and they gradually turn to become closer to parallel with it. The offset placement of the metal segments resemble the weaving coordination of a school of fish.

The connection to water is not a coincidence: Hurdman Station is located next to the Rideau River, and the iridescent shade of green in the sculpture is a reference to the shimmering feathers of some birds, including some waterfowl. Viewed up close from directly below, the parallel arrangement of the bars also bring to mind the train tracks that pass above the sculpture in the station.

The swooping curve of the sculpture, the angular cut of the metal pieces, and the glint of green all seem to allude to the stylized ‘O’ symbol featured in the city’s logo and flag. Because of its role as a major bus terminal, Hurdman Station is one of the busiest O-Train stations on the entire line. This makes it an important fixture of the city that many residents will inevitably pass through at one time or another.

To the thousands of people who pass through the station every day, Coordinated Movement is an elegant enhancement of the architecture that softly creates visual interest instead of commanding attention. Through its simple design, the sculpture encapsulates some of the most important aspects of the city: the people, the nature, and the infrastructure that brings the two closer together.

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