Public Relations

Daily Pioneer News

Monday, December 08, 2008

Artwork adds finishing touches to UWP engineering building

A two-piece project, Beads and Branches, created by Mineral Point artist Peter Flanary, is located at the entrance of the new engineering building.

PLATTEVILLE - As the University of Wisconsin-Platteville's new engineering building nears completion, the final touches include the artwork that will make a strong first impression for many visitors.

The first thing students, faculty and other visitors will see as they approach the front entrance of the new 108,500-square-foot building is a two-piece work, "Beads and Branches," created by Peter Flanary, a Mineral Point artist.

The first piece is a rod holding up a vertical stack of granite boulders with palm-like aluminum fronds topping off the 27-foot-tall structure. It will be located behind a 14-foot bench made from boulders strung together and suspended on a post-tensioned threaded rod approximately 16 inches above the ground.

Flanary said the pieces are intended to convey a sense of the impossible in engineering, referring to the way the boulders appear to be suspended in space.

"Without proper engineering, you tend to overbuild things," he said in an interview earlier this year when the artwork was commissioned.

The artwork is funded through a program that requires that two-tenths of 1 percent of the total construction costs of new state buildings or renovation projects be designated for the commission or purchase of artwork. The Wisconsin Arts Board Percent for Arts was established in 1980 for the purpose of placing artwork in the public setting, both to beautify public buildings and urban environments and to draw attention to the wealth of artistic experience in the region.

Flanary has done several other pieces of art across the state with the Percent for Arts Committee including "The Wave" on the UW-Madison campus.

Linda James, UWP assistant professor of art history, served as a member of the UWP Percent for Arts Committee that commissioned the Flanary piece. In addition, she said that several other pieces of art on campus also have been commissioned through Percent for Arts. They include the Scott Wallace Strategem, the chess pieces near the Pioneer Student Center installed in fall 2006, and the Sticking Tommies, the lit blue columns near Ullsvik Hall installed earlier this fall.

"I think that our public sculpture adds visual poetry to the UWP campus, often becoming gathering places, interesting passageways or simply places to pause," James said.

The seal of the old Wisconsin Mining School has been recreated in the entryway to the new engineering building.

While Flanary's work in front of the new engineering building is modern and cutting edge, visitors to the building also will come in touch with the school's past as they enter the front door and see a reproduction of the seal of the Wisconsin Mining School laid into the lobby's floor.

The seal is as similar as possible to one in the floor of Rountree Hall, previously the main building of the Wisconsin Mining School. That building now houses apartments and is no longer a part of the school.

Douglas Stephens, UWP campus planner, said he started the process of replicating the logo approximately two years ago when he did a scaled architectural drawing of the Rountree Hall seal.

Stephens said he jumped at the opportunity to help re-create the seal.

"I accessed Rountree Hall and found the existing seal in a dark vestibule on the east side of the building," he said. "I set up portable work lights in the vestibule and spent a couple hours on my hands and knees taking every measurement necessary and then worked to develop scaled and dimensioned AutoCAD drawings."

Peter Davis, UWP interim director of facilities management, said the original seal was brass set in stained concrete. The current version has replicated the brass and laid it into terrazzo, a colored glass-like tile.

Andy Hudzinski, construction administrator for River Architects in La Crosse, said finding acceptable material to use to recreate the old seal using modern construction materials was the biggest challenge.

Hudzinski said the terrazzo combines colored, recycled glass and colored epoxy. He said a lot of time and attention was put into trying to match the colors of the seal in Rountree Hall as closely as possible. He described the colors as deep red and "root-beer" brown.

The architect worked with Wisconsin Terrazzo and Tile in Onalaska and another firm that supplied a three-eighths-inch-thick sheet of brass. The images and rings in the logo were cut from the brass sheet with a water jet, Hudzinski said.

Gov. Jim Doyle will preside over the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $25.6 million building on Saturday, Dec. 13. The new building, located at the intersection of Southwest Road and Longhorn Drive on the UWP campus, will open at 8 a.m. The ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for 8:30 a.m.

Richard Shultz, UWP dean of Engineering, Mathematics, and Science, and UWP Chancellor David Markee also will deliver remarks.

When classes resume after winter break, the building will be home to electrical engineering, engineering physics, physics and the general engineering labs as well as the Nanotechnology Center for Collaborative Research and Development. Student organizations also will have workspace.

For more information on the new engineering building, contact Lisa Riedle, associate dean, UWP College of Engineering, Mathematics, and Science, at (608) 342-1686 or

Contact: Lisa Riedle, associate dean, College of Engineering, Mathematics, and Science, (608) 342-1686, Written by: Gary Achterberg, UWP Public Relations, (608) 342-1194,

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