On May 6, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation announced its annual list of “Most Endangered Historic Properties in the State of Washington,” and the Robert Morris Earthwork in SeaTac is on that list. Created in 1979, the earthwork, also known as Johnson Pit #30, is a 4-acre land sculpture designed by American artist Robert Morris as part of a symposium entitled Earthworks: Art as Land Reclamation sponsored by the King County Arts Commission. Two projects were realized as part of the innovative symposium: the sculptural earthwork at Johnson Pit #30 in SeaTac and Herbert Bayer’s storm water management and detention system at Mill Creek Canyon in Kent. The premise of the symposium and the resulting artworks redefined the notion of public art at an early time in the development of many civic programs. King County was pursuing a new type of land-use policy through its Arts Commission and asserting that contemporary artists can and should be instrumental in envisioning solutions for some of the most pressing and important civic and environmental issues. This fundamental principle, that artists’ ideas can shape our built environment as well as our civic life and public policy decisions continues to this day.
At the time of its creation, Johnson Pit #30 looked out on a sparsely developed Kent Valley with a rich agricultural history. Its contemplative site and bucolic view has since been dramatically changed by housing and industrial developments. 4Culture is committed to the preservation and restoration of this unique artwork. The designation by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and an earlier recognition as part of the Cultural Landscape Foundation’s Landslide 2014 Art and the Landscape will help the efforts to secure King County landmark status and a listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Since 1992, the independent, nonprofit Washington Trust for Historic Preservation has used its Most Endangered Historic Properties List to bring attention to over 100 threatened sites nominated by concerned citizens and organizations across the state. As part of this outreach and education program, the Washington Trust assists advocates to develop strategies and opportunities for reducing immediate threats and to find positive preservation solutions for the endangered historic properties.
The six projects featured in this year’s Most Endangered List, including the Robert Morris Earthwork, are described in short videos and linked photos posted on the Washington Trust website.