This five-story (80-ft. tall) suspended sculpture is seamlessly integrated into the interior of the new University of Minnesota Science Teaching Center. The sculpture animates the space within the cantilevered main stairway, forming a visual and social centerpiece. In the words of Bill Pedersen, design principal of KPF Architects, this sculpture is ‘the most successful integration of art and architecture that I have been associated with over my career.’
Two cable-formed cones reach toward each other. The upper cone is composed of 16 stainless steel cables (16 is also the number of skylight mullions above the sculpture). This cone of cables supports a spiral made of vivid dichroic glass. The spiral unravels above the third floor, untangling into codependent strips of dichroic glass, which follow the curves of the stairway and atrium-floor openings. The ephemeral, one-of-a-kind 40’-long spiral revolves in the direction opposite to that of the main stairwell.
The lower installation, meanwhile, develops from ground level. A web of cables holds a stainless steel spiral positioned in front of an array of letters, numerals and scientific symbols representing the fundamentals of science. The spiral itself, minimalistic in approach, contains images related to the subjects taught in the building. As part of the architectural treatment of the spiral, these images are embedded into recessed half-spheres of polished stainless steel.
The sculpture’s functional base (20’ diameter) is made of a mirror-finished blue stainless steel, along with 800 programmable color-changing LED lights. Beneath the base, embedded letters/numerals spill onto the visible portion of the floor from the cone sculpture above.