Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 23  |  Friday, January 28, 2000  |  Number 2
In This Issue  |  FermiNews Main Page

The Sculpture of Robert Wilson

Photos by Reidar Hahn

The Wilson-designed 32-foot Hyperbolic Obelisk in front of Wilson Hall is called Acqua Alle Funi, or "Water to the Ropes." When an Egyptian obelisk was being erected by pulleys in the square of St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome, it threatened to topple until the order was given to pour water onto the ropes, stiffening the ropes and rescuing the effort.

Broken Symmetry towers 50 feet above the Lab's west entrance. Wilson designed the 212-ton (42,000-pound) structure, which was built in the Lab's machine shop. Some of the steel came from the decommissioned USS Princeton.

Growing up on a Wyoming cattle ranch, Bob Wilson was no stranger to working in the blacksmith's shop. He did the welding himself for the Mobius Strip, mounted atop Ramsey Auditorium. Wilson welded 3"x5" pieces of stainless steel to a tubular form eight feet in diameter.

Tractricious, 36 feet high, was designed by Wilson with structural design accomplished by Tom Nicol of Fermilab's Technical Support section. Each stainless steel outer tube weighs 550 pounds, and the structure can withstand 80-mph winds.

It took a lot of persuading, but Wilson finally convinced Commonwealth Edison to construct power poles to his own design specification based on the Greek letter "pi".

last modified 1/28/2000   email Fermilab