High Tech Aerial Sculpture ‘Spectroplexus’ Takes Flight in T2 at STL

June 15, 2017

St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) has unveiled an expansive aerial sculpture that is both high tech and minimalistic. It captures the themes of flight, plays off moving rays of light and ultimately, gives passengers and visitors plenty of reasons to focus in on the beauty of art, rather than usual trials of travel.

This beautiful escape of a sculpture is called “Spectroplexus.” It was created through a unique partnership between the airport’s Lambert Art & Culture Program and Washington University in St. Louis. Graduate architecture students within the Sam Fox School of Art & Visual Design were commissioned to create an installation that was custom fit for the vast space of the ticketing lobby of Terminal 2, which serves Southwest Airlines.

Over the last four months, eight students digitally designed, modeled and constructed 1,500 carbon fiber rhomboid-shaped modules which carry colorful translucent polycarbonate sheets in the shape of aerofoils. The frames were then linked together on site, and lifted into place 13 to 17 feet above the floor. As a whole, the 100 ft.-long sculpture, with hues of purples and greens, takes on the appearance of a murmuration — the effect of a mass of birds twisting and turning in tight formation. But a more focused, zoomed-in look reveals other aspects of color, shapes, and connections.

“This sculpture is about giving the passengers and visitors a reason to disconnect, if only for a moment, from their long list of next-steps and to-dos involved in today’s type of travel,” said Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, STL’s Airport Director. “We are so thankful for the collaboration with Washington University in St. Louis, for the students and their artistic vision and tireless effort in creating a work that will greet millions in the many months to come.”

The project was part of a university design studio, “Structural Substances: Suspended in Air,” taught by lecturers Lavender Tessmer and Jason Butz. The students also developed an entirely new fabrication process which involved building computer-designed molds for the carbon fiber elements with assistance from TechShop in St. Louis. 

“This was a challenging project, but we could not have asked for a better partner,” said Butz. “It’s been a fantastic learning experience for our students, who spent months creating the design, fabricating thousands of elements and installing everything on site. We’re extremely proud of the work they’ve done and honored to share it with St. Louis residents and visitors alike.”

"Spectroplexus" will hang for up to 18 months. More than seven million passengers travel through Terminal 2 every year. The art project is part of the Airport’s temporary exhibitions program which is financially supported by the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission.