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Sculptor builds bridges between art and technology

St. Louis sculptor William Conrad Severson offers this advice to today's engineers: You are creating what centuries from now will characterize this era; aesthetics and technology must both be considered.

A UW-Madison alumnus and creator of the Engineering Mall sculpture "Máquina," Severson was back on campus Feb. 6 to deliver a lecture titled "Building Bridges Between Art and Technology." Joining him was retired structural engineer Arthur Monsey, who for the past 22 years has served as a technical consultant for Severson's projects. The program was co-sponsored by the College of Engineering and the UW-Madison Arts Consortium.

Maquina Fountina

The sculpture "Máquina," designed by William Conrad Severson, is the focal point of Engineering Mall. (large image)

On all of Severson's sculptures--which include works for educational institutions, religious groups, museums and corporations--he has relied heavily on input from a consortium of people most closely associated with each particular artwork's theme. For example, when designing the stainless steel sculpture "Máquina," Severson received advice from hydraulics and structural engineers. And his hanging sculpture "Cosmos," at the Juffali headquarters in Saudi Arabia, would not have been possible without the guidance of physicists.

Severson used slides of his various projects to explain the interrelationship of art and technology, including the problems that had to be solved to achieve a balance between these two realms.

Engineers and scientists may not always realize it, he said, but aesthetics and aerodynamics do work together in the design process. He cited airplanes as a prime example.