Iris Field - CODAworx

Iris Field

Client: School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL, United States

Completion date: 2001

Project Team


Julio Sims


School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Industry Resource

SAIC Ceramics Dept.

Industry Resource

AIC Museum Physical Plant Dept.


Site-specific, temporary installation: 4 ceramic tree grates (62″ diameter), 2 ceramic lanterns (17 1/2″ height x 12″ diameter), halogen lighting, granite gravel. In-kind contributions from SAIC Ceramics Dept. and AIC Museum.


A subtle transformation of the campus entrance references Japanese Zen gardens. Central element is ceramic grating surrounding the base of four courtyard trees. Outside diameters are identical while the inside opening varies - similar to the eye’s dilating iris. The design relates to Japanese raked gravel, harmonizing with the space’s permanent fixtures: trash containers and drains. The brick-red color with implied movement of opening & closing suggests Nature’s determination to accommodate its own growth.

Additional Information

The previously disheveled, neglected space became a tranquil gathering spot for the school community. At night the illuminated lanterns, mimicking the students’ lit cigarettes and the shape and glow of nearby street-lamps in Grant Park, enabled the courtyard to compositionally include the park beyond. The Japanese garden “borrowed scenery” technique suggests that natural laws operating in microcosm apply equally to the macrocosm.