Client: City of Saint Paul
Location: Saint Paul, MN, United States
Completion date: 2017
Artwork budget: $100,000
City of Saint Paul
A series of giant grasses are growing in Saint Paul. Within their leaves hide glowing fireflies; ‘Little Giants’ to be sought and discovered. At night they light up, becoming an organic constellation. An iconic meeting point at the exquisite Conservatory building in the midst of the verdant surrounds of Como Park. This piece shows us that diversity and coexistence are crucial. It reminds us of our own greatness and fragility, and of just how important it is to follow a path of preservation and caring for the future. Larger than life; within it we experience the world from another perspective.
Our goal was to bridge the site’s unique ecosystems and architecture, and provide an exquisite and iconic meeting point for the general public. Given the setting in a public garden, the piece needed to be particularly appealing to children and families, and be capable of opening up new worlds to the imagination. Casto therefore designed a series of giant grasses of over three meters in height. Their stalks curve and intertwine, and their leaves trace intricate forms into the sky. Made from polished stainless steel, their mirrored surfaces gently reflect the light and colours of their surrounds; catching fire with the rising and setting sun, and glowing gently during daylight hours. On wet days, raindrops are channelled down their stalks, and water beads on smooth steel surfaces. They are spaced to allow people to walk within them, experiencing the world form another perspective. Fireflies cling to the stalks. Crafted from stainless steel and with LED lights housed in hand-blown, reinforced glass housings, at night and in low light they can be switched on to illuminate the sculpture and represent a constellation of natural light.
This spectacular piece was hand-modelled by Casto Solano. The grasses were made in segments and from gauges of steel that decrease the higher their placement in the sculpture, resulting in a light-weight structure with a low center of gravity. Cutting edge techniques were used to achieve this, and likewise to ensure that each welded seam is entirely imperceptible to both sight and touch. The grasses are interconnected and self-supporting, and present negligible surface-area to wind-loads. Each stalk is also internally reinforced with steel rods and meshes. This renders the sculpture able to withstand extremely high winds and any attempts at rocking it from ground level. Due to the quality of the artwork’s 316L stainless steel, it is practically impervious to corrosion and capable of remaining for generations in its housing space without requiring regular maintenance. Graffiti can be easily removed using non-specialist products and techniques. In making the sculpture, collaboration with the project's commissioners and work teams was absolutely vital at all stages. It was our pleasure to work with them.