Location: Huntsville, AL, United States
Completion date: 2013
Artwork budget: $160,000
Breaking Earth’s Bond (24’w x24’d x 25’h) has three stainless steel components: Trajectory, Bridge, Hydrazine. The vertically rising Trajectory, inspired by a rocket’s path during launch, depicts both this fleeting aerospace phenomena and evokes the region’s aspirations. More earth-bound, the Bridge’s anchored arc has a lens-shaped peephole allowing visitors to peer into memory. Five Hydrazine molecules, the original rocket fuel, lie scattered around the sculpture site, forming a counter-balance with their spare silhouettes to the solidity of Trajectory and Bridge. Enlarged to human-size, these stainless steel stick-and-ball components add playfulness and, literally, chemistry to the viewer’s relationship to the work.
From the very beginning, the developers of Redstone Gateway planned to place a monumental sculpture of some 25-feet tall in durable materials in the center of the plaza. The mission and marketing of COPT has included adding major sculpture purchases to their corporate properties to attract major corporate tenants, to better define every office park and campus with a visual identity, creating workplaces with charm and intelligence. The placement of the buildings, the alignment of the nearby highways and the temporary and permanent landscaping decisions all took into account the presence of a significant sculpture as the centerpiece of the plaza.
Redstone Gateway lies at the entryway to the Redstone Arsenal of NASA, where the Saturn and Apollo missions were designed, fabricated and tested in Huntsville, AL. When they chose Ulrich to design the focal point of the three-building grouping, they already knew the final design would be monumental (20- to 25-feet tall), fabricated out of stainless steel and reflect the history and geography of the area. Ulrich responded naturally and effectively to such site criteria.
This project began when the client informed Ulrich that his portfolio of monumental stainless steel and bronze sculptures had earned him the position of one of four finalists asked to create a design for the Redstone Gateway site. A month later, he offered the design to secure him the commission. But the client was interested in seeing more of his design ideas before they decided on a final piece. Ulrich submitted seven new design sketches ranging from simple to complex shapes, from a single piece to sculptural groupings, and from one material to sculptures incorporating metal, water, glass, and lighting. The committee chose three works in stainless steel. Ulrich expanded on one. Over the next six months, the design evolved. The process was a collaboration between Ulrich and the client group. In the end, Ulrich presented the committee with a design that responded to input from everyone, echoing their enthusiasms and sense of what was appropriate for the site. The process had completely transformed the initial design into something new: a collaborative work, guided, formed and held together by his strong sense of design and aesthetics. Landscaping folded around the installation site.
On November 7, 2013, Ulrich received the UNESCO Art Award "Inspiring Peace and Humanity through Art and Science," awarded to him by the US National Commissioner to UNESCO. This great honor was the cumulation of 24 months of design collaboration, fabrication and installtion.