The Lunchtime Tourist

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June 9, 2003 // UPDATED 10:51 am - April 30, 2007
By: Linda S. Koutsky
Linda S. Koutsky

\'Glass fountain\' by Howard Ben Tre

Target Corporate Offices, 1000 Nicollet Mall

Target stores are known for their savvy sense of design, so when it came to planning the entrance plaza for the corporate headquarters they turned to internationally renowned glass artist Howard Ben Tre.

Not satisfied with making tabletop sculptures, this Rhode Island artist\'s work has escalated in scale to encompass entire architectural environments. For Target\'s plaza Ben Tre designed the central glass fountain, surrounding benches and the wall sconces that mimic the shape of the fountain.

Made of industrially cast glass and bronze, the fountain is both internally and externally lit and glows softly at night. Water bubbles over the top (in warm weather months) and gently splashes on the granite paving below. It\'s a popular spot for basking in the summer sun.

Howard Ben Tre was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1949. As a student he attended an industrial arts and sciences school where he learned tradecrafts, bronze casting and architectural drafting. While at Portland State University in Oregon in the 1970s, he began blowing glass in a community of artists that included Dale Chihuly. The artist wasn\'t able to realize the solid forms he envisioned and began to experiment with casting glass.

Today Tre continues with his pioneering techniques. Molten glass is ladled into bonded resin molds made by the artist. The casts are put in an annealing oven to be heated and slowly cooled over several weeks to prevent the glass from becoming brittle. The casting process is done in large glass factories where the artist uses unbleached, unpurified glass that has a slightly greenish tint because of iron oxides in the material. He values the impurities and random occurrences that happen during this industrial manufacturing process. Back in the studio the artist and his assistants grind, assemble and embellish the pieces.

Influenced by the work of Constantin Brancusi and Isamu Noguchi, along with ancient Roman ritual objects and Grecian urns and vessels, Ben Tre has created his own vocabulary in his work. Of his creative process, the artist has said that travel has been key in his \"continuing search for the true and archetypal sense of things, which has in turn enabled the invention of my own forms.\"

Make a trip to this plaza over lunch today and be inspired.

LUNCH TIP: Pick up a Szechwan chicken salad to go at Marketplace Cafe, Target Corporate Plaza, 1000 Nicollet Mall, and enjoy lunch by the fountain.

Send your tips or comments to thelunchtimetourist@hotmail.com.