• STart CAIRNS
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  • STart Cairns plans
  • STart Cairns plans (detail)
  • STart Cairns model
Ingrid Lahti - STart CAIRNS

Public installation (2003)

A permanent public sculptural installation for the Tacoma Link Light Rail Convention Center/South 15th Street Station, Tacoma, Washington. Commissioned by the Sound Transit Art Program (STart), funded by a 1-percent-for-art ordinance.

This sculptural installation is a collection of cairns, stacked towers of rocks held in balance within vertical stainless steel cages.

To find cairns in hiking is to know you’re on the right path. They answer our hope for safety, for direction, and perhaps for emotional balance, calm and tranquillity.

— Ingrid Lahti, 2003


"With Zen-like balancing rocks paying homage to the former site of a Buddhist temple, the Convention Center Station is perhaps the station most focused on the city’s future. With the new center opening in 2004, the theme of this station is tied to international connections and progress. . . .
"The multi-leveled garden on the east side of the station includes five stone and steel cairns, made by Seattle artist Ingrid Lahti. The sculptural cairns are a reminder of how the lessons of the past continue to mark the way to the future. Ancient stones enclosed in contemporary stainless steel embody the balance and the tension between tradition and innovation seen everywhere in the evolving Tacoma cityscape."

— from STart Tacoma Link materials

These cairns for the Convention Center refer:

To human journeys,
To the glaciers which carved the region 14,000 years ago with
     ice and stone and stopped just south of Tacoma,
To the rivers of the Northwest which tumbled these rocks to size,
To the Tacoma waterfront,
To Buddhist temples such as the one that was formerly sited nearby,
To nature and technology in balance.

— Ingrid Lahti, 2003

cairn n.

  • A mound of stones erected as a memorial or marker. [Middle English carne, from Scottish Gaelic carn, from Old Irish.]

balance n.

  • 2. A state of equilibrium or parity characterized by cancellation of all forces by equal opposing forces.
  • 5. A stable mental or psychological state; emotional stability.
  • 6. A harmonious or satisfying arrangement or proportion of parts or elements, as in a design.
  • 7. An influence or force tending to produce equilibium; counterpoise.

— from The American Heritage Dictionary, Third Ed.