MAX Lents Town Center stop gets “light” artwork

It’s not that easy to see when driving by, but take a look at this eco-friendly sculpture that now graces the SE Foster Road MAX station …

The blue glow at the top of these steel plant-like structures will welcome light rail travelers to Lents Town Station, when the I-205 Green Line opens in September.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
You won’t be able to see the other sculptures designed and fabricated by Portland artist Brian Borrello until the MAX Green Line begins service on September 12. But one of his designs in his Lents Hybrids is on display right now.

A tree-like installation, with LED-illuminated sconces mounted on helical coil-shaped poles, is “planted” in the sidewalk alongside SE Foster Road., immediately west of the MAX Green Line overpass. This is the largest of the three commissioned sculptures – it’s 27-feet tall.


Brian Borrello examines the petal sconce with the help of his technical assistant, Shurd Rice.

Three years in the making
“I came up with the designs over time,” Borrello explained, as we watched him and his crew prepare to install the sconce. “I analyzed the site and the terrain, and talked with people at the neighborhood association meetings. This area used to be called ‘The valley of long grasses’. So, I tried to incorporate something that was wispy, and grass-like, into the structure.”

From design to fabrication, he’s spent about three years on the project, Borrello said.

As he checked the wiring on the sconce, Borrello paused and added, “I wanted to create something that was interesting and provocative, and looks fresh every time you come by. But I also wanted it to relate to something organic and beautiful. It’s a plant model, that’s related to the conversation among mankind, technology, and nature.”

Borrello said he enjoys creating sculptures because of the tactile nature of the work. “You can touch it, and feel that’s its weighty and physical. In this virtual world, it’s important to have tactile objects one can touch and feel.”


25 feet up in the air, sculpture Borrello prepares to install the unique lights.

Self-powered illuminator
On the top of the “petals” are high-efficiency photovoltaic cells that charge a battery system during the day. Acting as rotating vertical axis wind turbines, other kinetic sculptures located near the north and south platform entrances also generate electricity. “The system generates more power than it uses,” the artist observed.

We pointed out that his sculpture isn’t well identified. Borrello responded, “I enjoy the anonymity of putting pieces out there without a big nameplate on it. I enjoy watching people come upon them, and take a second look. I want to make it appropriate for the drive-by experience. But even better, appropriate for pedestrians to come close, and experience it in person.”

He hopes the community will enjoy his handiwork, Borrello said. “It’s an expression of the potential energy of the Lents Neighborhood. Maybe when I’m gone, it will live on as something good I’ve left behind.

You can learn more about the artist by visiting his website:


Borrello checks the cables, before they hoist the sconces into place.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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