Biochemistry building beautified by new six-story artwork

Last week, Seattle-area artist Norie Sato and her team installed a six-story tall sculpture in the atrium of the Biochemical Sciences Building, 440 Henry Mall.

The helical piece hangs from the ceiling—down the vertical shaft created by the building’s spiral staircase—and is one of two main parts of the overall artwork, which is so new it’s still untitled. The second part of the piece is the etchings in the building’s west-facing glass wall, installed during construction.

Sato shared this information about the new artwork:

The helix:

“The material for the sculptural spiral is an aluminum mesh fabric, and with the stairway itself, the two spirals refer to helices found in various chemical structures. Within the spiral, a sculpture of stainless steel spheres form groups that refer to ball and stick depictions of molecular structures, some building blocks to DNA, and… to molecules.”

The glass:

The glass “incorporates a pattern abstracted from the biochemical language describing parts of DNA structure… There will be no color in the glass, with the pattern being a visually subtle series of geometric shapes that are based on the four [nucleic acids] in DNA… These patterns create shadows in the afternoon sun, as well as interest to attempt to decode them, as they are based on actual sequences.”

While primarily a glass artist, Sato also created the beautiful terrazzo floor in the Biochemistry Addition Building, which opened in 1998.

Both of Sato’s pieces for the biochemistry department were funded through Wisconsin’s Percent for Art Program, which was established in 1980 to place artwork in public settings, helping to beautify public buildings and urban environments. The program ended last year.

Photos by Robin Davies.