Dan Corson

Its chameleon surface is reportedly similar to currency's anticounterfeiting paint.

Stroll by Oakland's newest public art twice, and you might feel like you've seen two different things. That's because the swirling, landscape-looking sculpture at the 19th Street BART is coated with "flip-flop paint," a substance that plays chameleon to suit the reigning weather.

At one moment "Shifting Topographies" might appear to be jade, at another ocean blue. The face it presents to the world depends on the angle of the sun and atmospheric conditions like fog and rain. "It really does change significantly depending on time of day and the season," says Dan Corson, the Seattle artist who made it. (A similar kind of anti-counterfeiting paint "is actually on U.S. currency and other international currency, I was told.")

Like much of Corson's work—for instance, these carnivorous-plant street lights"Topographies" draws heavily from the natural world. Its jutting plateaus are a loose interpretation of Oakland's green-and-golden hills, and the glass wall at its base really is a "You Are Here"-style map of the city:

Dan Corson

But the culture of Oakland also wormed its way into "Topographies." According to a description of the project: "Other inspirations came from the flashy paint jobs in the car culture of this community and the signature Blue BART station for which the art marked the entrance." (For folks who didn't know Oakland had a car culture, please check into the local phenomenon of sideshowing.)

Corson's artwork doesn't go dead when the sun goes down. Light projections dance off its surface, drawing psychedelic references to squirmy topographic lines and the waves of the Bay. Have a look:

Dan Corson
Dan Corson

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Environment

    A 13,235-Mile Road Trip for 70-Degree Weather Every Day

    This year-long journey across the U.S. keeps you at consistent high temperatures.

  2. Design

    How I. M. Pei Shaped the Modern City

    The architect, who died yesterday at the age of 102, designed iconic modern buildings on prominent sites around the world. Here are some that delight and confound CityLab.

  3. Tourists walk along the High Line in Manhattan, New York City
    Life

    The Beauty Premium: How Urban Beauty Affects Cities’ Economic Growth

    A study finds that the more beautiful a city is, the more successful it is at attracting jobs and new residents, including highly educated and affluent ones.

  4. A photo of construction cranes and tall buildings in downtown Los Angeles.
    Equity

    ‘Build More Housing’ Is No Match for Inequality

    A new analysis finds that liberalizing zoning rules and building more won’t solve the urban affordability crisis, and could exacerbate it.  

  5. An artist's rendering of a space colony, with farms, a university campus, an elevated train track, and skyscrapers in the background.
    Design

    Jeff Bezos Dreams of a 1970s Future

    If the sci-fi space cities of Bezos’s Blue Origin look familiar, it’s because they’re derived from the work of his college professor, the late physicist Gerard O’Neill.