Cellular Panorama: Our Body / A Garden

Submitted by The Art Studio at RDG Planning & Design

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Client: Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa and South Dakota

Location: Des Moines, IA, United States

Completion date: 2010

Project Team

Artist

David Dahlquist

RDG Dahlquist Art Studio

Tile Supplier

Sunderland Brothers Company

Tile Installation

Des Moines Marble & Mantel Co

Overview

The wall mural entitled “Cellular Panorama: Our Body/A Garden,” is one part of a larger integrated art program and comprehensive installation for the new Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa. Made of state of the art Italian glass mosaic, the mural measures 11’ tall by 53’ long. The mural animates a major circulation area and serves as a colorful, dynamic backdrop for the company dining area.

Goals

The mural is a focal point in a very active, high traffic location within the interior of the building. The concept is connected to other artwork throughout the building, with themes that are all related to nature and our place within our environment. The company is deeply committed to health and wellness and considers the artwork a primary factor in promoting a beautiful and productive work environment. While the image may be directly informed by science, the overall effect is one of a garden or landscape. People have been moved by the lyrical quality of the image, commenting that it has made them more aware of their own body and their natural surroundings. This visual association is repeated in other forms, as well as the company signage and wayfinding system. The mural’s location also invites a continuous lighting display, as the sun moves throughout the interior, reflecting and flickering the metal strands of glass and accenting the changing colors.

Process

Based on the human cellular structure, the image depicts a portion of a cell from the immune system building antibodies. It was created through a collaboration with David Goodsell, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at the Scripps Research Institute, and David Dahlquist, with RDG Dahlquist Art Studio. Together they adapted Goodsell’s watercolor based on an electron microscopic view into the pixelated glass mosaic mural. Communication throughout the project was critical. Frequent drawings, color additions, and sample glass material were sent back and forth, working out both aesthetic details as well as the optimal procedures for installation. Working closely with the owner, the process also included the care and expertise of a local legacy tile setting company, from concept through installation.