Client: University of Maryland
Location: Baltimore, MD, United States
Completion date: 2017
Artwork budget: $400,000
University of Maryland
Public Art Agent
Maryland State Arts Council
Ashley & Vance Engineering
In late 2016 I won an open public art competition for the University of Maryland, Baltimore, for the plaza of a new medical research building. Over 170 artists applied to this national call, initially narrowed down to 30, then to four finalists who prepared full proposals. I used the themes of DNA research that will take place in the facility, working this into the history of the medical school which had recently marked the 200th anniversary of its founding. The result is a 30’ high kinetic stainless steel wind sculpture, which was installed in August 2018.
The four finalists of the competition were invited to an orientation meeting before designing their proposals. The University had a broad list of conceptual goals. Emphasis was placed on the research activities in genetics and medical imaging planned for the research facility. The 200 year history of the medical school also figured large. I worked in themes from the early medical's schools 19th Century roots emphasizing direct research into anatomy, using "incisions" in the lower composition of the sculpture to reflect medical dissection and investigation. The upper sections represent a DNA molecule and the continuing importance of genetics during the University's second century. As well, the subtly human form of the composition and partially skeletal look reflects medical imaging. The scale of the project and the design of the plaza, with a circular stepped hardscape area and approach walkways providing a focal point for pedestrians, the building entry, and passing traffic of the busy Baltimore Ave. were also important design considerations. The University had also expressed interest in a kinetic sculpture, which is a specialty of mine, and the prevailing dependable winds from the west made an ideal location for a wind sculpture.
Collaboration included input from medical researchers on the faculty, the university historian, the campus architect, landscape architect, and HOK Architecture who designed the new $300m building and plaza. Extensive professional engineering studies were done for structural integrity, and wind testing on models for aerodynamics. The campus architect was called on to help design a foundation and paver system that would allow the the narrow base "legs" to rise directly and cleanly out of the pavement. A professional lighting designer was called on to satisfy lighting requirements while conforming to the "dark skies" initiative to avoid light pollution. The sculpture was fabricated in Los Angeles by Handmade LLC, which specializes in stainless steel sculpture and was able to do the specialized solid forging and CAM machining required by much of this design.
The exact location of the installation is the northeast corner of 670 W Baltimore St at Pine St, outside Health Sciences Facility III. The University is in the heart of downtown Baltimore blocks from Camden Yards stadium and the convention center. The dedication occurred in October 2018 with a ribbon cutting by the First Lady of Maryland, Yumi Hogan. This is the first public sculpture commissioned by the UMB Medical School campus in its 200 year history.