Vortex - CODAworx


Submitted by Mark Gibian

Client: % for Art

Location: Anchorage, AK, United States

Completion date: 2016

Artwork budget: $41,500

Project Team

Public Art Agent

Enzina Marrari

1% for Art; Anchorage, Alaska


Rudy Rodriguez

Mark Gibian Artworks


Mark Gibian


I worked closely with Enzina Marrari; Curator of Public Art to develop ideas for the new West High Science Building, in Anchorage, Alaska. It was always going to be a suspended work, but early designs didn't specifically symbolize all the sciences. Because spirals are found in many branches of science from astronomy to zoology, we decided to concentrate on designs for a giant suspended spiral, related in its' curved-truss vocabulary to some of my other public art projects. I finally sculpted a bent and welded scale model in wire that met with positive approval!


It was critical that the artwork harmonize both with the built environment and create an icon representing all of the sciences, since it was being hung in the new glass and metal atrium with a monumental circular stair. The ground and buffed rolled steel of "Vortex" fits perfectly with the spiraling metal stair it hangs in the center of. It creates a powerful aesthetic form that is found in much of science and nature.


Most of the collaboration was upfront with Curator Enzina Marrari, because the decision of what to design for the specific site was of primary importance. We spent months going back and forth with potential designs. I also worked collaboratively with the architect, engineer, and building superintendent on other decisions. We decided questions such as how to fit the work in the doorway, the size and type of cable, and how and where to make the attachments to the sculpture and to the ceiling. For the fabrication I relied heavily on the genius of my friend and helper Rudy Rodriguez (of Mark Gibian Artworks) to come up with solutions. My son Marlon was also of enormous help during the installation, where among other things, he drove and guided the articulated lift. We used come-alongs to suspend the 1200 pound spiral from the three hooks, which had been welded in place in advance by the contractor, until the cables were swaged hydraulically in place.

Additional Information

Luck was on our side. We rolled with the punches, and the work came very well. It ended up hanging a bit closer to the balcony than planned: not exactly in the center of the hall. This unexpected development made the work more interesting and easier to view. I have pleasant memories of struggling with the rolling machine to get just the right custom curves. I fondly recall "Vortex" wrapped in bubble-wrap and shrink wrap for the cross-country trucking and ocean shipping. It looked like a giant frozen turkey!