Monochrome for Austin - CODAworx

Monochrome for Austin

Client: Landmarks and The College of Natural Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin

Location: Austin, TX, United States

Completion date: 2015

Artwork budget: $1,400,000

Project Team


Nisa Barger

Landmarks, the public art program of The University of Texas at Austin


Nancy Rubins


Andrée Bober

Landmarks, the public art program of The University of Texas at Austin

Industry Resource

Jamie Garza

Nabih Youssef Structural Engineers

Industry Resource

Sasaki Associates Inc.

Industry Resource

Keith Westmoreland

Office of Facilities Planning and Construction, The University of Texas System

Industry Resource

The Beck Group


CO Architects


Landmarks commissioned artist Nancy Rubins to create a site-specific sculpture on the northwest corner of 24th Street and Speedway on The University of Texas at Austin campus. Composed of seventy aluminum canoes and small boats and standing over fifty feet tall, “Monochrome for Austin” cantilevers over the street providing an organic contrast to the surrounding architecture. The sculpture is the largest piece in the Landmarks collection and draws support from a steel armature and intertwining cables. Each boat, pulled from the waters of Northern California, was individually positioned by Rubins and her crew of five over a three-week period.


With plans underway at The University of Texas at Austin to convert Speedway into a pedestrian-only thoroughfare, Landmarks is spearheading the effort to enrich the walkway with a robust collection of public art. "Monochrome for Austin" joins works already in situ by Joel Perlman, James Turrell, Sol LeWitt and Mark di Suvero. Rubins’ sculpture mimics the decades-old trees that line the street and complements the design and scale of the Norman Hackerman Building where it resides.

Swirling on currents of air, the boats in "Monochrome for Austin" are removed from their associated landscape and combined in a visually precarious mass, giving the impression that they are suspended in time and space. The glistening aluminum captures and reflects the sunlight, revealing every scratch, patch and imperfection. Rubins’ sculptures combine delicacy and strength, a polarity that is even more striking when encountered outdoors.


As with the other works in Nancy Rubins’ Monochrome series, "Monochrome for Austin" required the collaboration of not just artists and designers, but also engineers and a five-person installation crew. Structural engineer Jaime Garza managed a team of engineers and CAD designers to simulate load conditions for the sculpture, including a large earthquake, hurricane or heavy snow.

The sculpture, located outdoors in a busy campus thoroughfare, first required the approval of the leadership of the College of Natural Sciences, whose building project funded the artwork. Once that approval was granted, Landmarks obtained the blessing of the campus Master Plan committee, required for all projects in outdoor public spaces on campus. To execute this project, Landmarks and UT’s Office of Facilities, Planning, and Construction project managers spent a year coordinating efforts between various constituents on and off campus including the artist’s studio, the building architects and engineers (CO), the artist’s engineer (Jaime of Nabeh Youssef), and the campus utilities group, among others.

Additional Information

In addition to being the largest public art sculpture on The University of Texas at Austin campus, Nancy Rubins is the first female artist to create a public art piece for the Landmarks collection.