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County officials have figured out a quick and easy way to help folks distinguish its new courthouse from others downtown.

At a cost of $317,000, a portion of the new Pima County Courthouse will "shimmer" in the Tucson sun, officials say.

Dozens of highly reflective glass panels have already been installed as part of a 623-square-foot art project, which will be mounted on the side of the courthouse at North Stone Avenue and Toole.

Officially called "Desert Mosaic," a nickname has been given by county officials to the dichroic-glass-coated tiles designed to change color and intensity when viewed from different angles and in different lights: "The Shimmer."

Dichroic glass is produced through a high-tech process that was originally developed for the aerospace industry and that involves a thin layer coating of metal oxides created by lasers in a sealed chamber.

The $317,000 cost of the art installation will be come from a county policy requiring 1 percent of a construction project's budget be used for public art. The policy has been in effect since 1990.

The full 15,000 glass squares making up "The Shimmer" will be installed by the end of the month.

While county art projects more typically lean toward sculptural pieces, in this case it will serve as a landmark to help visitors downtown distinguish between the new court complex and other court facilities, such as Superior Court, City Court and federal court, a county announcement of the project says.

"It also just brings an exciting sparkle to the space because of its energetic interplay of light," said County Facilities Manager Reid Spaulding.

The piece was produced by artist Gordon Huether.

'The shimmer' by the numbers

• 623 square feet: size of the shimmering mosaic on the new Pima County court building.

• 15,000: number of tiles making up the mosaic.

• 3 inches by 3 inches: size of each of the dichroic-glass-coated tiles.

• 48: height above the ground the mosaic will hang.

• $317,000: cost of the decorative piece..

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at or 573-4346.