A new public artwork has joined the City of Scottsdale Permanent Art Collection at Arizona State University’s SkySong campus.
Scottsdale Public Art commissioned the design and installation of “Sunburst” by RE:site at SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center in south Scottsdale. It was installed in 2020 and final details were completed in January 2021.
“’Sunburst’ is the culmination of years of planning and implementing a public art project at the SkySong campus,” says Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker, public art manager for Scottsdale Public Art. “The sculpture looks spectacular any time of day or night, but if you go when the sun is at its apex in the sky, you can play in the colored light on the ground beneath it.”
Suspended by steel columns, “Sunburst” was inspired by a form of a spherical astrolabe, an ancient instrument used to observe and calculate the position of celestial bodies. The artwork’s three steel rings rise above a small plaza and house color-changing dichroic glass panels that reflect and transmit different colors and patterns onto the surrounding area.
The artists from RE:site, Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee, said “Sunburst” reinterprets the rings of an astrolabe as sunburst diagrams, a type of data visualization used to show meaningful relationships in complex data.
“The resulting form is a dramatic, radiant gesture that celebrates the convergence of data, technology, and the global economy,” says Allbritton, who graduated from the University of Arizona.
Allbritton and Lee view the astrolabe as an ancestor of contemporary data visualization: a beautiful form that illuminates hidden patterns, guides the traveler, and predicts future movement.
The title of the artwork was chosen in part because of ASU’s use of sun symbolism. It is also tied to the natural environment of the Valley of the Sun.
“As the bright Arizona sun travels overhead, the sculpture’s dichroic glass panels change color, transparency, and reflectivity,” Lee says. “The artwork changes continually with the movement of the sun and the viewer, poetically evoking that technologically-driven data is continually changing in real time. Like the sun, data visualization makes the invisible visible.”
At night, the sculpture is illuminated, providing a different but similarly dramatic experience of reflected and transparent color.