E Pluribus

Submitted by Ralph Helmick

0

Client: US Courthouse

Location: Cedar Rapids, IA, United States

Completion date: 2012

Artwork budget: $450,000

Project Team

Artist

Ralph Helmick

Architect

William Rawn Associates

William Rawn Associates

Architect

OPN Architects

OPN Architects

Industry Resource

JunoWorks

JunoWorks

Public Art Agent

General Services Administration

General Services Administration

Industry Resource

Roger Smith Lighting Design

Overview

A dramatic structure descends from the atrium ceiling of the US Courthouse in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The articulated volume is a fine, complex metal network of citizen profiles, reflecting community demographics. The portraits are arranged in an hourglass shape and form overlapping moiré patterns – a metaphor for jury system, in which individuals engage with their peers through such varied states as clarity, confusion, and compromise with the goal of consensus.
The sculpture measures 46’ high x 27’ diameter, and was commissioned by the General Services Administration.

Goals

E Pluribus serves as a portrait of the community and a signal and symbol of the courthouse, visible from the street, the second floor Main Hall, and the bridges and elevator landings surrounding the atrium. During working hours, the artwork is experienced primarily from inside the building. Key vantage points include a grand staircase, elevator lobbies and several pedestrian bridges. Night presents a different phenomenon. Perspectives from First Street reveal the sculpture as a diaphanous abstraction visible from the entry plaza and all the way downtown. Specialty art lighting softly illuminates both the interior and exterior of the artwork. At any time of day the most striking perspective may be from directly beneath the piece. Here the hundreds of discrete portraits coalesce into a powerful three-dimensional mandala, a vivid visceral vortex. As with a mandala, the sculpture centers the viewer in space and time. And as one comprehends the multitude of faces above, one is swept up in a visual metaphor for unity and community, individuality and consensus.

Process

The artist and architect (William Rawn Associates) collaborated actively to ensure that the art and architecture is complementary. In wide-ranging workshops, they explored the interaction of the sculpture with a scale model of the space, and exchanged ideas on material and color selection. The final result speaks to the success of the collaboration – an artwork that enhances the architectural space. The artist also worked with Roger Smith Lighting Design to create a lighting scheme that maximizes the visual presence of the sculpture, with minimal energy use (the building is LEED certified), and coordinated with the client on the logistics of installation.

Additional Information

“E Pluribus” is inspired by the transformative experience of serving on a jury. Through form, light and shadow the sculpture addresses the dynamic between the individual and society. It aims to promote self-awareness and to encourage informed and respectful consensus with one’s fellow citizens.