For a major university, the most valuable currency is not its sports teams, but its scholars and their accomplishments. The University of Minnesota recognizes that, and celebrates its most renowned faculty and students with a new installation that allows viewers a window into their brilliant minds.
Meant to be multi-dimensional and absorbed over many viewings, the Wall of Discovery is a 253-ft.-long illuminated “blackboard” along Scholars Walk on the university’s Minneapolis campus. The wall tells the scholars’ stories through a series of their personal notes, sketches, diagrams, and drawings on the blackboard surface under edgelit, etched-glass panels.
Viewers can see, among many other entries, Dr. Robert Good’s notes for an article on the first successful bone transplant, James Ryan’s patent drawings of the airplane flight recorder, Dr. Catherine Verfaille’s notes on stem cell research, and even Bob Dylan’s lyrics to “Temporary Like Achilles.”
LA ink was responsible for the project’s extensive research, design, and project management, and worked with a list of more than 200 scholarly achievements. Document acquisition and coordination of permissions from scholars and their heirs was a major undertaking. More than half of the documents came from outside the university.
LA ink designed the “blackboard” with graphics electrostatically imaged using Scotchprint materials and printers, then adhered to high-strength aluminum sheet stock to eliminate deflection. Over the blackboard graphics, edge-lit glass panels feature abstract images etched and carved onto the back side, away from dirt and vandals.
While the blackboard has a semi-matte finish, the glass panels were intentionally kept reflective, allowing viewers to notice their own images superimposed on the wall. That touch was intended to stimulate personal contemplation and perhaps inspire viewers to someday add their own “writing on the wall.”
Drew Sternal (principal in charge), Joseph D. Olson
253 ft. long
Nordquist Sign Company (primary fabricator), Miratec Systems (3M “blackboard” film imaging), Glass Art Design (glass carving and etching)