Paragon Prairie Tower

Submitted by The Art Studio at RDG Planning & Design

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Client: R&R Realty

Location: Urbandale, IA, United States

Completion date: 2007

Artwork budget: $520,000

Project Team

Artist

David Dahlquist

RDG Planning & Design

Client

Mark Rupprecht

R&R Realty

Lighting

David Raver

RDG Planning & Design

Animation & Modeling

John Hansen

RDG Planning & Design

Electrical Engineering

RDG Planning & Design

Masonry

Forrest & Associates

Mosaic Installation

Des Moines Marble & Mantle

3D Modeling

Travis Rice

Signage

Parker Signs

Panel Installation

Gary Hansen

Landscape Architect

Brian Clark & Associates

Mosaic Supplier

Sunderland Brothers

Overview

Entitled “Paragon Prairie Tower,” the 120 foot tall column depicts a scene of native prairie plants and grasses and pays homage to the history of our own natural landscape. The tower, surrounded by a public plaza and lake, is currently the largest glass mosaic mural in the United States, clad in nearly 1.8 million pieces of Italian mosaic tiles. The base of the column integrates a frieze of prairie grasses in sculpted relief made of terra cotta and glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC). Dramatic lighting effects highlight the iridescence of the glass and creates a dynamic glowing ambiance at night.

Goals

The design objective for the Paragon Prairie Tower was to create a major destination icon and new cultural landmark for the State of Iowa. Working closely with the private developer, the project began as a gateway for the Paragon Business Park. Scale and view were primary considerations. The monumental marker serves as a beacon and brands the new development. It welcomes visitors and attracts businesses. The public artwork, a state-of-the-art synthesis of art and architecture, has become the identity feature of the region.
The Paragon Prairie Tower recalls the presence of agricultural structures such as grain silos. Silos and church spires were the tallest architectural forms for most of our country’s history. Now the most prominent feature in the “Silos and Smokestacks” National Heritage Area, the tower embodies the Midwestern work ethic of saving and harnessing our abundant natural resources. While respecting our past, the tower reaches for the future in a lasting commitment to quality and our own cultural heritage.

Process

The tower is an orchestration of many elements. The structure is fabricated from precast concrete panels assembled on site. The image is of the prairie: sprays of big-bluestem grass and wildflowers in a stylized deco landscape of field and sky. The use of glass mosaic tile was critical to the original artistic concept and selected as the best material to express the concept of the Iowa Prairie in the form of a monumental three-dimensional painting. A high resolution digital scan of the original artwork was interpreted by a computer program into individual pieces of glass. Projects of this scale depend upon the talent and skill of many people and represent a collaboration of professional disciplines. This included engineering, testing and analysis of the critical factors related to expansion and contraction between the pre-cast concrete panels and glass tile, the use of a waterproofing/isolation membrane, selection of materials for setting bed, epoxy grout, and more.

Additional Information

Through tight schedule, inclement weather, wind, and on-going construction, the selected tile setters executed a masterful installation. Over 5050 square feet of glass mosaic tile were painstakingly set in horizontal bands around the column, following the original layout and allowing for expansion and even spacing of joints. The result is a tour-de-force of Old World Craftsmanship, combining artistry, architecture, engineering and construction. Only through such a careful attention to detail does the original artistic vision and the objectives of the owner become a reality.