Industrial past inspires Fairmont's 'Garden of Titans' Christmas tree
“A tree this cool deserves to be admired,” says the sign accompanying the 16-foot-tall Christmas tree in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel, Downtown.
It also deserves a second look.
Instead of a traditional blue spruce or Douglas fir that might have ended up in the hotel Dumpster, the whimsical, contemporary sculpture is spending its second Christmas on display, part of what the hotel's management team intends as a long-running tradition.
The hotel “wanted something that would tie into the hotel's themes of art and industry,” says Julie Abramovic, public-relations manager of the Fairmont Pittsburgh. They also wanted to highlight the Fairmont's commitment to recycling and sustainability.
“The Fairmont asked for a non-traditional Christmas tree. That set us free of the cone shape,” says sculptor Matt Clifford of Forecast Design/Build in Polish Hill, who had previously created most of the Fairmont Pittsburgh's display cases.
Pieces of oak, walnut, maple and cherry were salvaged from tree-maintenance projects in Polish Hill. Once stripped of their bark, they were assembled by Clifford to form the tree's angular trunk and its branches.
The pieces are held together by metal collars that make it possible to disassemble and store the tree for reuse.
A careful examination reveals decorations such as gears, chains, wrenches, hammers and other tools and machinery parts that are drawn from Pittsburgh's industrial past.
“In a couple of places, we cut gears apart and engaged the teeth. We started to look for opportunities to have wheel shapes … that imply you could wind it up,” Clifford says.
Many of the items come from Clifford's collection of found objects, including his grandfather's red-handled tack hammer. Others were salvaged from construction projects on which he worked, were contributed by friends or purchased from Construction Junction in Point Breeze.
The tree is illuminated by an assortment of vintage milk-glass light globes salvaged from old buildings.
While brainstorming ideas for the tree, Clifford and the team at Forecast Design/Build were inspired by an article about Pittsburgh titled “Playground of the Titans” from a 1939 issue of National Geographic magazine.
“That was the height of the industrial period here,” Clifford says.
The article led them to speculate on what the Titans' garden would look like. They called the finished sculpture “Garden of the Titans.”
He says the trunk's deliberate crookedness reminds him of the spindly, off-center tree in the Peanuts TV special “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
The tree may be composed of materials from the past, but that won't stop it from moving into the future.
This year, the glass globes have been augmented with energy-saving, computer-controlled LED modules that blink, change color and use less electricity than one 150-watt bulb.
Clifford also is thinking that in future years, additional lights might be imbedded in metal parts.
“We always knew and wanted the option to switch it up and keep it fresh,” Abramovic says.
The tree is on display through mid-January in the lobby of the Fairmont Pittsburgh Hotel, 510 Market St., Downtown.
Alice T. Carter is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kaboly: Steelers fill biggest needs by drafting defensive players
- Kennywood Park opening day ends early because of disruptive crowd
- Off and running: Marathoners hit the road
- Bird flu ravaging commercial flocks remains mysterious
- Steelers notebook: Harrison will play fewer snaps this season
- Penn State tight end James, a South Allegheny grad, goes to Steelers in 5th round
- Rossi: Pittsburgh could show NFL a draft party
- Coroner called to Hempfield car crash
- Mayweather beats Pacquiao by unanimous decision
- Pirates’ anemic offense fails in extra-inning loss to Cardinals
- Fire in Wilkins high rise apartment building causes evacuation of hundreds