Project of The Month: Hugo House

Image by Western Neon © 2019

Western Neon is incredibly proud to unveil our commemorative contribution to the new Hugo House space in Capitol Hill. Founded in 1996 by Seattle writers Linda Breneman, Andrea Lewis, and Frances McCue, Hugo House is “a place where you can read words, hear words, and make your own words better.” After the demolition of the century-old building that previously housed the organization, Hugo House reopened in September 2018 in a sleek, airy space designed by global architecture firm NBBJ with an acute focus on writing in mind. The Raynier Institute & Foundation granted $650,000 to Hugo House in support of their mission to provide a home for writing; in consideration of this, the in-house performance space Lapis Theater is dedicated in honor of the Raynier Foundation’s namesake, James W. Ray. We worked closely with Hugo House, NBBJ, and the Raynier Foundation to bring an exceptional, ornate marquee for the theater to life.

Image by Western Neon © 2019

James Ray was well known around Seattle as a passionate, eccentric individual who supported arts, education, and culture. He was a fan of the mystic and ornate, which is reflected in the design of the theater marquee. We made design choices in conjunction with the Raynier Foundation to best reflect James Ray’s vision and passions. Every element, from the silicon bronze, lapis-colored glass and geometric reveals to the font and Fibonacci spirals, incorporate visual cues from early 20th century Egyptian theater design and Art Deco iconography.

The metal component of the sign is made of silicon bronze, chosen for its luminous finish quality. While it might have been easier to use painted aluminum for nearly the same effect, we chose to use the silicon bronze we’d never worked with before in order to have the authenticity shine through. It was a difficult material to work with and handle, but well worth extra efforts. The face is backed with a contrasting lapis glass and bookended by illuminated argon-filled tubes evoking Fibonacci spirals. The “Lapis Theater” text is comprised of acrylic “push-through” type letter forms internally lit by LEDs, color matched to the glass. We also fabricated a large illuminated bronze clock placed above the theater entrance as an addition to the theater sign, further referencing Art Deco design and early 20th century Egyptian theater interiors. Lastly, we made and installed a bronze plaque dedicating the space to James Ray that evokes his unique impact and vision.

Image by Western Neon © 2019

We are proud to have collaborated with such great partners to create a truly monumental installation in memory of such a pivotal Seattle figure. It’s both a fitting addition to Hugo House’s elegantly designed communal space and an inspiring beacon for the local writing community – stop by some time to check it out. You can learn more about Hugo House here, and about James Ray and the Raynier Institute & Foundation here.