POLYTROPOS - Location: Chemistry & Advanced Materials Science Building, University of Minnesota, Duluth - CODAworx

POLYTROPOS – Location: Chemistry & Advanced Materials Science Building, University of Minnesota, Duluth

Submitted by Maria Artemis

Client: University of Minnesota, Duluth

Location: Duluth, MN, United States

Completion date: 2019

Artwork budget: $200

Project Team


Phil Proctor

Nucleus Sculpture Studio

Structural Engineer

Jim Case

Uzen | Case Structural Engineers

Studio Assistant/CAD Drawings

Mitchell Biggio


Celebrating the pursuit of learning through research & discovery, Polytropos was Inspired In part by the diversity and complexity of interdisciplinary work by faculty and students at CAMS. The physical form of this site -integrated work alludes to the dynamic web of ideas and knowledge that sustain us. Through learning and discovery, interconnections are observed, and new possibilities arise, continually changing the way we understand the world and our relationship to it through time.
The pattern, for the water jet cut stainless steel plates, is sourced from photos, by the artist, of water droplets on funnel-web spider webs. Each web structure is intricate, unique and ephemeral, dependent on local ground vegetation for its structural support. The resulting abstracted, and drawn patterns used, evoke awareness of how matter fills space microscopically and macroscopically.
Local stone, from Virginia, MN is carefully placed on the ground plane beneath the sculpture, echoing the unique geographic/geological provenance of the area surrounding Duluth and Lake Superior.
Commissioned by: University of Minnesota, Duluth Campus
Dimensions: 20’-8”h x 7’-6”w x 21’-7”d
Media: Stainless Steel and Local Stone
Date Completed: 2019


The building was nearly completed and the Landscape plan for the entry plaza was in place when I was selected for the project. My primary goal was to create an engaging physical presence that animated and celebrated the entrance to the building, in harmony with the scale of the plaza and surrounding pedestrian areas. The granite seats were part of the landscape architect’s design plan and not part of my design, yet the two needed to work together. There is a long view of the work while entering the Campus. The dark nights of winter are long in Northern Minnesota, I wanted the work to brighten the winter landscape. Another goal for the work was to embody a sense of movement and change, reflecting the dynamic nature of the varied research and learning taking place in the Chemistry & Advanced Materials Science Building. Recently, in conversation with the Director of the Art Selection and Advisory Committee for my project, he mentioned the engagement of people from across campus with the work, he said, “I believe it has landed well”.


I met monthly with the Art Selection/Advisory Committee of professors and students who would be using the new building daily. The UMN Public Art Curator, Craig Amundsen was present and advising for the project. In the beginning we discussed the learning environment, and types of research that would take place in the new building, and their desire for an outdoor area for meeting in small groups when the northern MN weather allowed. The building was nearly completed and Landscape plan for the entry plaza was in place when I was selected for the project. The budget was $200,000. As ideas for the design developed, I presented them to the committee, welcomed their feedback and their enthusiasm for the project as it developed.
Using Rhino 3-D CAD files developed in my studio with assistant Mitchell Biggio, I worked closely with Jim Case and Phillip Hatcher, Uzen | Case, Structural Engineers to certify the structural integrity for the work. The fabrication and installation was done in close collaboration with Phil Proctor, Nucleus Sculpture Studio; The Campus Electrical Contractors and Building Maintenance Manager for the lighting installation; students assisted in the installation of the Taconite, that covers the area beneath the sculpture.