Windfarming - CODAworx

Client: Iowa Department of Transportation

Location: Adair, IA, United States

Completion date: 2012

Artwork budget: $820,000

Project Team


David Dahlquist

RDG Dahlquist Art Studio


Iowa Department of Transportation


Yaggy Colby and Associates

Landscape Architect

French Reneker Associates

Lighting Design

RDG Planning & Design


Calhoun Burns


Travis Rice

RDG Planning & Design


Jim Russell

Russell Design


Jim Dawson

Iowa Metal Fabrication

General Contractor

The Weitz Company


MidAmerican Energy


Siemens Corporation


Brown Engineering


The Art-in-Transit installation for the new Iowa Department of Transportation rest area in Adair County is entitled “Windfarming.” Based on the evolutionary design of a bird’s wing, the same scientific principle of physics that propels a wind turbine blade, the project interprets the story of wind energy production in Iowa. In a bold and innovative solution, a full-scale commercially made industrial turbine blade has become a monumental destination icon for the state. The lighted blade, extending over 165 feet in the air, can be seen from nearly a mile away.


The primary goal of the commission was to develop a site-specific narrative to engage the traveling public in a relevant story, welcome them to the new facility, and encourage them to stay longer to use the site. Evidence has shown that the greater the integration of the story, the greater the anticipation of the visitor, with higher use and longer stay directly related to safety on the highway. The installation does not depend upon one singular element, but integrates many different sculptural components to create an overall experience for the visitor. The concept development and the integration of the artwork are critical to a methodology that connects fifteen other DOT facilities in a comprehensive traveling experience. People learn of state history and culture, while linking to other regional attractions and economic zones.
Artwork is not applied. Integration begins at the earliest conceptual development of the project; influencing site-selection, materials, trails, color, function, and more. The visitor does not read a didactic plaque, but instead, finds oneself inside the story. The overall design is fun, entertaining, and educational at the same time. Integration allows the public to become part of the story and share it with others.


Critical to the success of the installation is the nearly two-year collaborative PROCESS, with public artist facilitation, to arrange the donation and use of the turbine blade. Only through the collaboration of the multidisciplinary design team, including artist, architect, landscape architect, engineer, and owner, could the coordination of the myriad design details, structural engineering, liability insurance and contract negotiation have occurred. This collaboration included international manufacturing companies, utilities, government agencies, and the public.
Design options were tested, challenged, and revised; but the story and its significance to the location held the project together. Many professional design disciplines came together in an on-going dialogue to make the project a reality. Mutual respect and exchange of ideas are at the heart of collaboration. Free-hand sketches evolved through the use of technology, in concert with fabricators and installers, to erect the vertical blade icon and other sculptural components of the installation. Without collaboration from the beginning, the back and forth between design team and contractor, (with practical feedback from machinist to rigger to crane operator throughout the project) the project would not have been possible.

Additional Information

Many sculptural elements are integrated throughout the interior and exterior of the building including; an epoxy terrazzo floor depicting the power grid (complete with light bulb representing our need for electricity) in the entrance vestibule, digital glazed ceramic tile murals, retaining fence of pattern-cut farm fan windmill blades, color-changing LED lighted cube benches showing the power clusters, and a series of relief carved and modeled panels that document the fuels that produce electricity, inset into the brickwork of the building. Sculptural Dutch Windmill blades anchor the legs of the picnic shelters that appear to blow across the site.