Deterministic Chaos - CODAworx

Deterministic Chaos

Submitted by Catherine Widgery

Client: Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota

Location: St. Paul, MN, United States

Completion date: 2017

Artwork budget: $225,000

Project Team


Ken Sheehan

Alliance Architects

Industry Resource

Jan Peters

Peters Studios

Industry Resource

John Grant

Public Art Services

Industry Resource

Kirt O’Konek


Industry Resource

Joel Pieper

Joel Pieper Fine Arts


Catherine Widgery


An exterior arc of benches where students can sit compliments an interior wall arc. On both arcs, screens hung with moving squares reflect light. The interior screens are made of dichroic glass that bounces light and color on the walls, ceiling and floor. The exterior screens are polished stainless steel set in binary codes of scientific puzzles. These bounce light around the space inside and out, changing throughout the day and year with the shifting angles of the sun. Finally other codes are etched into dichroic panels that reflect and project color and pattern in the vestibules.


The integration of Deterministic Chaos into the environment and architecture was from the start a critical part of the concept. As was integrating the scientific subject matter (Physics and Earth Sciences) into the artwork. The openness of the design committee and the architect meant that we were all moving in the same direction to make this artwork transform the experience of the space inside and outside this entrance to the building.


There was intense collaboration with the scientists who work in the building to find codes that were both meaningful and aesthetically beautiful. These codes divided equally between the earth sciences and the astrophysics department, are talking points in the classrooms and the students have become engaged in the art in unusual ways. There was also extensive collaboration with the architects and construction managers to coordinate all the many details during the fabrication and installation.

Additional Information

The head of the Earth Sciences department wrote me a note to tell me that she made of point of using this Church Street entrance every time she went into the building so that she could see the ever changing quality of the light and movement of the art.