home | Robert Cole | news

www.wmata.com (metro)



I received a site-specific commission from the Washington Area Metro Transit Authority by being selected from three finalists in March of 2001. As would be expected, any large-scale work that is to be built by hand presents various problems. The most pressing one, especially if the work has never been built before, is control of the proportions at full size.

Models, at best, only approximate what the steel will do at full size even if they are built of the same materials proportionate to the finished work. My solution to this was to use the model as a guide while I felt the flexibility and proportions at full scale. There is nothing like seeing the real thing. Even so, my control over the hand bending and welding did not always go exactly as planned. When this would happen in the work I would try to solve both the engineering and aesthetics as best as I could.

I have used nature and, in particular, the forms and designs of trees, as inspiration in my sculpture. In the case of this commission I had to design two forms since the plan of this Metro stop had two 20-foot planters on either side of the entrance. Having to make two sculptures for the same funds that the other commissions got for one presented an additional complication that I overcame by experience and a rigid timetable and budget. Nevertheless, certain over-runs occurred. None were terribly large, so in the end I received a good return for my labors.

One of my ideas has been to use the contrast between machine-looking forms and more organic hand-formed ones. In this case I am referring to the machine-spun domes and the more hand-twisted forms of the trunk.The tension that this contrast creates lends a certain balance to my work. That is, by balancing these two ideas, the sculpture reflects the tensions we feel as humans between our best achievements in man- made cities and the great glory of the natural world.

These two Mushroom Trees, as I call them, stand about 12 feet in height and 15 feet in width. They are made of 304 stainless steel in thicknesses of 3/16 of an inch to 3/8 of an inch. They are bolted down to a 5 foot diameter by 2 foot tall concrete cylinder that sits on top of a 1- foot thick by 7 foot square.

This was done in a single pour with one-half inch rebar reinforcing rod. I used 10 inch by 3/4 inch stainless steel bolts that were drilled in place after the sculptures were lifted by a 30 foot crane, and held initially by one J-bolt previously set in the concrete. The concrete was fast-setting with a strength of 3500 lbs. psi. Each sculpture weighs approximately one ton. Installation took place in December 2001..


Mushroom Tree on the Left of the Entrance


Mushroom Tree on the Right of the Entrance as seen from the descending escalator


home | Robert Cole | news