Client: University of Texas at El Paso
Location: El Paso, TX, United States
Completion date: 2014
Artwork budget: $150,000
Elizabeth Thurmond-Bengt - Project Director
University of Texas at El Paso
Jack Pinkard - Engineer
Marvin Kutzman - Project Manager
Coefficient Electric Systems, Inc.
Koryn Rolstad Studios
‘Mandala Sunrise’ celebrates the unique and remarkable blending of cultures embodied by University of Texas at El Paso’s special relationship and partnership with the Kingdom of Bhutan. I also used the UTEP‘s colorful Latin culture and southwest landscape as inspiration for the project theme, redefining these elements into a highly engineered yet lyrical installation. The ‘mandala’ represents the sand mandala, with all the colors picked up by the wind into the sky, carrying their wishes and dreams, and turning into a ‘sunrise’.
'Mandala Sunrise' is integrated into the overall roundabout landscape, visible to passengers in vehicles, pedestrians and onlookers from various vantage points. In the vein of UTEP's Bhutanese theme, I took the traditional 'Sand Mandala' image and 'exploded' the color palette shared by the sunrise spectrum and mandalas existing on campus.
The overall effect is designed to blend into the landscape while establishing a strong visual language that is structural, dynamic and colorful. By using translucent colored 'wings' in the mandala sunburst, ambient light will refract onto the surrounding surfaces, causing colorful moving shadowing throughout the day, always looking different and dynamic in various weather and ambient light conditions. With LED in-ground lighting, the entire installation changes from day to night. The LED night lighting can be programmed up to 10 scenes, to change colors, add a sense of movement or remain white to emphasize the layered sunset hues, bouncing off the aluminum tree posts.
'Mandala Sunrise' is a destination & environmental experience. This focused my design on the constant feeling of 'surrounding' as a theme that connects nature and culture to the UTEP environment. I kept the landscaping simple, using layers of small regional stones.
Commissioned by UTEP in celebration of its centennial, the installation was on a fast track with the quick collaboration of UTEP staff and installers on site. UTEP’s Institute of Oral History was present, interviewing me and photographing our progress.
Once commissioned, all our drawings, through fabrication, were produced in the studio, including source drawings for our engineer. We then purchased raw materials, and delivered to separate fabricators who produced all component ‘kit o’ parts’ elements, depending on their specialty and time management skills. All final elements were shipped separately to site. The construction crew assembled on site, and walked each element to the crane to be installed. The electrical was laid out and programmed. The project installation was completed in three days.
The work is highly photographed by UTEP students and staff who share how ‘Mandala Sunrise’ enchants and inspires them.
‘Mandala Sunrise’ is dear to my heart, along with ‘Sky River Trees’ and ‘Sheltering Aspen’, all projects in which I explored developing public art environments that emulate the surrounding natural environment. All three projects are similarly engineered to be simple, elegant and structurally sound, withstanding winds up to 110mph and harsh weather situations. ‘Mandala Sunrise’, continues my exploration of nature and culture designed as ‘Architecture, Environment and Experiential Interaction’. I want this piece to identify the UTEP cross-cultural aesthetic and define this educational and citywide community who honors their own natural resources, economic growth and cultural acuity.