Isthmus - CODAworx

Client: Hovde Properties

Location: Madison, WI, United States

Completion date: 2015

Artwork budget: $41,000

Project Team


David B, Dahlquist

RDG Dahlquist Art Studio


Matt Niebuhr

RDG Dahlquist Art Studio


Victor Villacrez

Hovde Properties

Lighting Design

RDG Planning & Design


Iowa Metal Fabrication


Brian Frederiksen

RDG Dahlquist Art Studio


Katherine Chandler

RDG Dahlquist Art Studio


Donald Scandrett

RDG Dahlquist Art Studio


Larry Bredeson

RDG Dahlquist Art Studio

Project Manager

Jennifer Woida

RDG Dahlquist Art Studio


The three-dimensional, mixed-media wall installation is based on the unique geography of Madison, an isthmus surrounded by water. Made of custom glazed relief ceramic tile, laser-cut steel, and LED lighting, the piece is framed by a depiction of the original plat map of the city. The sculptural mural, 12’ by 15’ by 1’, hangs above the fireplace in the entry lobby of the new Ovation 309 luxury residence building in downtown Madison, WI.


The primary goal of the installation was to design and create a dramatic sculptural presence in the lobby of the new Ovation 309 building. There is a common denominator throughout all our projects. There must be a reason. We do not decorate. Instead, through insight, research, and documentation, we make meaningful site-specific connections for people that live and work and play in any given location. In so doing, we create special places where people want to be, to gather and to remember.The Ovation 309 installation is a focal point, an iconic image in color and texture that greets residents and visitors to the building. The historic reference to the map of Madison is a vivid connection and orientation for those who live there. We hope that it becomes part of the identify, the brand of Ovation 309 and a destination for Madison, one of those points of interest along the path from the University to the Capitol that people have to see.


RDG Dahlquist Art Studio is a multi-disciplinary collaborative studio. David Dahlquist and Matt Niebuhr work closely, from concept development through the actual hands-on fabrication and installation of artwork, with many other talented artists and professionals. “Isthmus” represents a tour-de-force of imagination and skill, merging art, architecture and engineering. Every great piece of public art must evolve from a great story. Moving from the concept to the physical piece is a transformation that demands dialogue, experimentation and a lot of experience. One question leads to another. One idea asks for many decisions to make it come to life. This is the true collaboration that takes place between artists, graphic designers, architects, engineers, contractors, and the owner/stakeholders of the project. Public art is about this process.