10,000 pounds of stainless steel become as delicate as a flower and 2,000 pounds of aluminum as light as a feather in "Gladiolus Blossom" and "Shielded", a two-part commission for the newly constructed St Petersburg Police Department. At 25' high with a diameter of 17', "Gladiolus Blossom" adorns the corner of the plaza; a take on the legendary flower of the gladiator, a symbol of beauty and strength. Walk past that into the lobby, and you are greeted by "Shielded", a 30' wide eagle's wing comprised of 236 individual aluminum feathers suspended 17' in the air.
The St Petersburg Police Department looked for two things when commissioning these pieces (1) Works that were inviting to the public, something to soften the department's image and add to the city's rich appreciation for art (2) Sculptures that the officers could be proud of, that connected the building and space with a feeling of duty and pride.
The design for "Gladiolus Blossom" is based on the gladiolus flower, which in ancient times was worn by gladiators into battle. This was a perfect combination as a flower is generally associated as something beautiful and inviting, but is transformed into a strong presence. The gladiolus was also an ideal choice as it is comprised of 6 petals, which align to the 6 core values of the department: Loyalty, Integrity, Honor, Valor, Transparency, and Service. The interior sphere is representative of the community, which is protected by the values surrounding it.
"Shielded" is based on an Eagle wing, a bird that embodies American spirit. However, the wing furthermore is a take on protection, as those who enter the police station are often victims in need of help. To be underneath one's wing, the piece is meant to evoke a feeling of protection.
MGA worked closely with the St Petersburg Police Department to design this piece as a testament to the city for years to come. The pieces were designed while the department was under construction, so MGA had to work with a multitude of architects, construction managers, builders, and engineers to incorporate the sculptures with the rest of the building to be ready for the grand opening. At the end of the day, the piece was successful in embodying the values of the department and honoring the first responders.
There were unique challenges in creating Gladiolus Blossom. The petals started as 1:6 foam carvings that were 3D scanned and manipulated digitally to realize the form. The structure for each petal is a waffling technique, and presented unique fabrication and engineering challenges. Each petal is incapable of standing on it's own, but when fastened together is capable of withstanding a category 5 hurricane.
Shielded presented different challenges. Although each aluminum feather is light (from one pound to 100lbs and 17' long), it was a challenge to suspend them at different angles in space and to deconstruct/reconstruct the entire sculpture.
St Pete PD Art -- Mark Aeling
Mark describes the creation of Gladiolus and Shielded.
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