Client: Chicago Midway Airport
Completion date: 2002
Artwork budget: $180,000
Shelley, Metz, Bauman, Hawk
THE BODY OF LAKE MICHIGAN suspended blue sculpture was constructed with the physical data of Lake Michigan collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS).
The sculpture (28’ long x 14’ wide) is constructed in the scale of 1:58,000 to the actual lake. The depth of the sculpture (4’ 0), however, is constructed in the scale of 1:230, which exaggerates the depth of the lake, enabling the lake bottom features to be seen more easily and dramatically.
For many, Chicago and Lake Michigan are visually, physically, and psychically inseparable. Lake Michigan is, of course, a readily recognized symbol of Chicago with the city’s parks, museums, and world renown high-rise architecture wedded to its western shore. A unique aspect of what “The Body of Lake Michigan” sculpture provides the visitor is the experience of seeing and examining the fully three-dimensional characteristics of this magnificent pool in the earth’s surface created by the last glacial advance. For most of us, the visual image of Lake Michigan is only a two-dimensional mental construct or map of its surface. This sculpture provides visitors with a very physical and three-dimensional Lake Michigan to connect in their minds with the more visually accessible three-dimensional City of Chicago.
The space occupied by the sculpture was designed by the architects and the administrators of Midway Airport. I coordinated the access to the NOAA data with a technical data developer, and the CNC mold making firm and I developed the hanging cabling and frame, sectioning, fittings with a structural engineering firm experienced in custom structures. A Chicago lighting designer provided plans for the installation of the lighting by another Chicago firm.
The visitors’ more abstract perception of the sculpture as seen at some distance suspended from the ceiling, enhances the discovery in close-up viewing of the object as being a precise data-based representation of Lake Michigan.