Electromagnetic Fall - CODAworx

Electromagnetic Fall

Submitted by Carter Hodgkin

Client: Queens College/CUNY

Location: New York, NY, United States

Completion date: 2010

Artwork budget: $140,000

Project Team


Carter Hodgkin

Carter Hodgkin Studios


Mitchell Giurgola Architects

Mitchell Giurgola Architects

Public Art Agent

Kendal Henry

NYC Dept. of Culture


Gloria Mizutani

Construction & Management, CUNY


For a new science building at Queens College, I created "Electromagnetic Fall", an 1100 sq. ft. mosaic covering 3 stories, each with lounge areas and columns. Viewing the floors as a vertical triptych, I used the concept of gravity to simulate an atomic particle collision occuring on the top floor, causing particles to fall dramatically to the bottom. A torrent of thousands of small, colored tiles cascade down, forming loops and circular arrays of orbiting particles along the way. The cascade unites the exterior façade with the campus quad and provides a unique but related design on each floor.


The college wanted artwork which would reflect the building's use for science while integrating with the campus quad and creating engaging artwork on the interior. Referencing physics, I used my drawing process with computer code to simulate atomic particles moving through the unique parameters of the architectural space. The design responds to various scales and is bold enough to enliven the exterior quad while remaining intimate on the interior.

Animated by the changing light of the day, a burst of particles dramatically falls three floors from top to bottom.

On each floor, individual mural designs create an identifiable sense of place for the multi-use lounge areas. The architecture is further united by mosaics for 9 interior columns, wrapped with lines of particles creating lateral and vertical movement down each hallway. The column design rotates horizontally and vertically on three floors to create a continuity of movement and energy. 10mm glass tile was used to create the design with each small tile corresponding to each pixel in the image, reflecting the digital nature of the design. My unique production process allowed the use of 100 different colors of glass tile to reflect daylight and enhance visual texture and movement.


With a budget of $140,000, I worked with the City University of New York, the State Dormitory Authority of New York and Mitchell Giurgola Architects. 1100 square feet of handmade mosaic was completed within budget, ahead of schedule and installed when the building was ready. Electromagnetic Fall originates in the rigor of the scientific experimental process, yet embraces the evocative and whimsical. It transforms the notion of historical public mosaics into a modern scientific digital imaging vernacular.

Electromagnetic Fall is a durable, permanent, award-winning project which has been a success for my clients in expressing their goals for the facility as well as my goal for art.

Additional Information

This project was selected as one of the best public projects of 2010 by Americans for the Arts. Reflecting the scientific use of the building, Electromagnetic Fall connects the historical use of mosaic in public places with a modern scientific digital imaging vernacular.