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Discover new public art

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Joy of Discovery Captions.

Workers used a special lift to work in the five-story atrium, but it had to be compact enough to fit through a pedestrian door.

The lift sits in position on the atrium floor.

Three of the sculpture’s four pieces await assembly.

A tapered end of one of the rolled aluminum pieces of the sculpture’s spine.

John Sastre prepared the connection to a beam arching above the atrium.

The lift reaches across walkways that span the atrium.

Wes Burt, left, and Sastre prepare the uppermost part of the spine to be lifted and attached to the beam.

Going up. Jim Bixby, building coordinator at the Bond Life Sciences Center, steadies the spine.

Burt attaches one of the hoops with stainless steel cable.

Don’t look down. Sastre and Burt had to put finishing touches on the sculpture after it was in position.

Several students and workers in the Life Sciences Center helped guide the sculpture through a narrow pass in the atrium.

Although workers considered building scaffolding to help them mount the sculpture, they decided that using a lift was the only option.

Passersby get in on the act.

Tote that barge. Helpers heft ropes to position the sculpture as it rises in the atrium.

Sastre surveys the sculpture, which awaits its fourth and final piece.

The sculpture may look high tech, but it went together with nuts, bolts and wire.

Sastre and Burt position a piece of the sculpture.

Artist Kenneth vonRoenn, left, was on hand to help with the final part of the installation. Assembly took three weeks.

Artist Kenneth vonRoenn, right, watches Sastre attach the final piece of the spine.

A detail of the colorful dichroic acrylic elements, which symbolize DNA.

A view of the completed Joy of Discovery from the atrium floor.

Mizzou’s new Bond Life Sciences Center is now home to an even newer piece of art that spans the building’s five-story Alvin E. (Al) and Mary Agnes McQuinn Atrium. The sculpture, called Joy of Discovery, is a curvy, 110-foot-long spiral of aluminum, steel and colorful acrylic that hangs almost invisibly from two roof trusses. Up on the fifth floor, passersby can stroll just under the piece as it slices diagonally across the atrium. Then it swoops downward four floors and seems to hover in space like a high-tech hummingbird.

What the discs mean

art disc

Read about the scientific research behind the colorful discs in Joy of Discovery.

Joy of Discovery is public art, but it differs dramatically from the traditional soldier-on-a-horse style of art that anchors many a town square in America. The sculpture is what artist Kenneth vonRoenn calls architectural art. He worked not only to communicate a key idea about what happens in the building but also to enhance the architecture itself.

VonRoenn is both an architect and an award-winning artist working primarily in the medium of glass. His firm, Architectural Glass Art Inc., has executed hundreds of projects throughout the United States as well as in Japan, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East. He recently completed what may be the world’s largest glass sculpture, which crowns the top of First Union Bank in Charlotte, N.C.

Collaboration is the big idea of the life sciences building, which houses the labs of some of Mizzou’s top researchers across several disciplines. Architects and planners laid out the floor plan so that researchers could meet informally in public spaces to share ideas and enhance one another’s work. In the mind of the artist, the concept of collaboration took physical shape. “I had the idea of a central spine with floating circles all interconnected with the same relation to the center,” vonRoenn says. Smaller discs contain images generated in research at the center, and still other parts hint at DNA, a major theme in research occurring throughout the building.

In addition to communicating through symbolism, vonRoenn intended the sculpture to elevate the atrium’s appearance. For instance, he liked how a huge skylight illuminated the space and reacted by choosing materials that turn sunlight into vivid colors and splash it around on the walls and floors. He also saw a chance to use Joy of Discovery as a sort of aesthetic glue to unify the atrium’s two parts, which are divided by bridges on each floor. “On my first visit, I didn’t feel comfortable with the bridges splitting the atrium, so I wanted to connect the two sides,” vonRoenn says. “My first drawing was a simple diagram that connected the two parts. Then I got the idea of being able to walk under it like a portal so that you could almost touch it.”

When the McQuinns of Naples, Fla., approached MU to donate money for the sculpture, they had a request as well. “They wanted to represent the growth and continuity of science so the piece would continue to be relevant in the future,” vonRoenn says. “Since science changes, the piece should also change. Every 10 years, we will replace the image discs with ones showing current work. The images that come off will become part of a new sculpture that may be set elsewhere in the building.”

At the sculpture’s dedication Sept. 25, 2007, Al McQuinn, BS Ag ’54, voiced two desires for Joy of Discovery. First, he hoped the sculpture would inspire the building’s researchers to do work that benefits people in Missouri and beyond. Then, evoking MU’s alma mater, he said, “I also hope it brings dear old Missouri high fame.”

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