The concept for this competition entry to skin the railyard façade of El Museo Cultural emerged from the most banal of objects.  The fridge magnet as a souvenir of places and events predates sexier tourist kitsch such as thongs and beer coasters one finds in most souvenir shops. A plethora of fridge magnets of all shapes, colors, material and context hold up triumphant crayon fudge, dog-eared pictures, postcards, shopping lists, other more meaningful artifacts, embedding a mosaic of personal memory onto the metallic surfaces of most household refrigerators. The magnet on metal is a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of memory; memory holding up memoir, a loose collection of mutating thoughts that define time. The mass-produced souvenir itself is a product of the industrial revolution when travel became safer, affordable and consequently tourism. This is the seed for Tessellation, from Tessella (tessera) – the ancient Roman mosaic tile, where hexagonal magnetic tesserae create a mosaic of collective memory to mark a place, a space and an event.

The complexity in the resulting skin is derived from the simplest variables. The Tessellation is created by a mix of community participants using a total of 151,008 tesserae in two contrasting colors, working within the existing datums of the ground plane and the vertical ribs on the metal skin and pre-assigned rules. The hexagon is the most efficient shape that can be tessellated; hexagonal tessellations abound in nature. Each tessella is a hexagonal magnet 2 3/16” W X 3 ¼” H in two colors. A discrete third color will be used for the ridges only.

The community participants will fill in the entire bottom half of the metal skin with magnets. A core group of volunteers on scaffolding shall complete the upper half, responding to the pattern created by the community and filling in each rib in the opposing color. The entire façade shall be filled in, including the doors and the shipping containers. When open, the entry shall be clearly seen as a void in the continuously tessellated skin.

The resulting dynamic pattern reveals the demographic of the participants, a random and loosely pixilated wave that appears like a mirage out of the Tessellation. The Tessellation itself is an optical illusion, a holographic image that changes with distance, light, perspective and scale. It is a skin of magnets over a metal skin – a mosaic of collective memory. The Tessellation is an image that becomes associated with the event, with El Museo and Art Santa Fe Presents in the collective memory, a branding so to speak.

Over time this mosaic shall erode as magnets are removed from the metal and taken as souvenirs. The erosion reveals a second demographic, intersecting with the first. Fragments of the collective memory revert to becoming personal mementos. They disperse all over the city, the planet, marking other metallic surfaces – refrigerators, lamp posts, trash cans, transformers, stop lights, train cars, shipping containers, airplanes……


At the end of the year the remaining magnets can be taken down and sold as Limited Edition Souvenirs of the Tessellation to fundraise for the permanent façade or next year’s event.