Gate of Earth - CODAworx

Gate of Earth

Submitted by Lydia Rubio

Client: Raleigh-Durham International Airport Authority

Location: Raleigh, NC, United States

Completion date: 2010

Artwork budget: $205,000

Project Team


Lydia Rubio

LR Studio Inc


Michael Ficalora

MLF Co, Raleigh NC


CBS Consulting, Boston MA


1200 sf. of floor area. Tree: 25 x 30 x 30 feet, bird 3 x 6 x 6 feet
The building’s orientation and symbols related to North: Earth and to South: Air, generated the artistic concept for these stylistically complementary Gates, the Gate of Earth and the Gate of Air.
To impact the very narrow Terminal 2 escalator lobby spaces, the art gates were conceived to create memorable places, large scaled landmarks. Symbols distinctive of North Carolina were incorporated: the dogwood tree, the cardinal bird sculpture. Words of Thomas Wolfe “A stone, a leave, a tree”; and the leaves of the dogwood were inserted in the terrazzo floor and exterior concrete floor designed by the artist. Flooring was NIC.


The approach was of total integration: a handshake between art and architecture. The tree branches are supported on three interior columns and hang over the escalator space, they seem to perforate the exterior glass and continue uninterrupted from the exterior to the interior of the terminal, creating a magical place. The whole tree sculpture, branches and trunk, was required by the client to be demountable to allow refinishing and maintenance. The design of structural joints, a 6 inch separation from the curtain wall and the removable tree trunk base were specific design challenges.


Based on paper, wire and metal models of the sculptures, large scale architectural models and detailed drawings provided by the artist, the structural engineers developed the fabrication plans and digital 3d models for the tree, fabricated of aluminum tubing and plates and sections by a local metal fabricator. With the close supervision and collaboration of the artist in the details of textures, branch distribution and overall design the tree was fabricated, assembled and taken apart for installation in sections to fit the 7 x 7 feet terminal door opening. The tree finish is clear lacquer. The bird sculpture (aluminum sheets water cut and riveted) was fabricated by the artist. The interior terrazzo and exterior concrete floor was designed by the artist but fabrication was not included in the contract.

Additional Information

Due to the terminal construction phasing, the completion of these two commissions for the Gates Earth and Air at the RDUA Terminal, building took five years. The budget of $385,000 for both Gates includes an increase of $25,000 to comply with escalating engineering fees. Both pieces were completed according to schedule. The interior terrazzo and exterior concrete floor was designed by the artist and coordinated with the Terminal GC, fabrication was not included in the art contract.