Client: Children's Hospital in Omaha
Location: Omaha, NE, United States
Completion date: 2010
Artwork budget: $1,750,000
Capturing the innocence of youth in a heartwarming, colorful sculpture, “IMAGINE” incorporates nineteen shimmering umbrellas, spiraling up a 75-foot stainless steel ribbon inside the window-encased stairwell of the Children’s Hospital in Omaha, while five larger-than-life bronze children celebrate the joys of life on the outside lawn. The umbrellas, each painted copper, silver or a combination of both, contain programmable LED lights capable of more than 16 million colors and combinations. The colorful light show features many hues and showcases the capabilities of the 3,500 LED lights that are an integral element of “Imagine”.
The design of the new building, with its multi-story glass-enclosed stairway, presented an extraordinary opportunity--to provide the community with an imaginative and compelling 90-foot-tall work of public art envisioned by noted Omaha sculptor Matthew Placzek, on one of the busiest corners in the city. The sculpture was themed for its location on the Children’s campus. Titled “Imagine,” the sculpture depicts a heartwarming scene of children at play with umbrellas on the exterior grounds, inviting you to float with them into the interior of the building where 15 umbrellas are suspended from a 65-foot steel ribbon. While whimsical in approach, the umbrellas also represent the elements of hope, nurturing, caring and protection for children.
Bob Holm and Bryan Nielsen from HDR Architecture in Omaha contacted Matthew to design the original concept for the sculpture. The design of the staircase was suited to showcase a signature work of art. The architects envisioned a beacon for the busy intersection. At only 12 feet in diameter the stairwell design is narrow, so Placzek realized he would have to design a self-supporting spire to support the floating umbrellas.
Placzek referred to the structural engineers he hired as part of his creative team for the design of the spire. They created a 3-D computer model of the piece and knew “within one-sixteenth of an inch where everything was going to go.”
The spire weighed in at 8,000 pounds. Construction crews brought 10-foot sections into the tower at a time, stacked them and welded each section. Once the spire was in place it was time to attach the umbrellas. The umbrellas are 4, 6 and 7 feet in diameter with a 150-pound aluminum frame on the inside. Metal fabricators, Polycarbonate fabricators and lighting engineers worked along side the artist to complete the project.
“It is my hope that the piece will bring a sense of joy to the families and patients at Children’s”, said Placzek. “It represents the nurturing, caring and healing of the many children who receive care here each year. And with such a visible location, I want people who pass by to forget their daily challenges and enjoy the bronze children who are celebrating the simple joys of life.”