The Freedom Sculpture
submitted by Amy Soverow
University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital
Birmingham, AL United States
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The Freedom Sculpture is the central focal point of the UAB Hospital North Pavillion concourse, covering an area 25 feet square and descending 35 vertical feet from the 4th story atrium skylight. The sculpture was installed in December, 2014.
The team wanted to fill this important four-story vertical space with a mobile-like glass and metal sculpture that was light, delicate and fluid, and maximized the constantly changing light provided by the skylight above. To that end, we designed a flock of 100 glass and metal birds to "fly" permanently through the UAB North Pavillion lobby atrium. One key goal was the keep the sculpture feeling light and in motion, while utilizing two traditionally non-flexible materials, glass and metal. The birds comprising the atrium flock are one of three types: glass-only, metal-only or a combination of the two materials. All of the birds are suspended from metal “rays” that pass through a 12-foot textured, rolled aluminum ring attached just below the 4th story skylight with a cable and turnbuckle system.
The glass-only birds are made with 12 colors of textured frit, fired just to the point where the frit creates glass spheres that shine like jewels as sunlight reflects off the glass. These glass birds were first fused flat to create the glass sphere texture and then fired again on metal molds to give impression of "flight". Each glass bird hangs by means of its own unique swivel harness, allowing motion in lobby air currents. The metal-only birds, also in three sizes - were made of textured aluminum, textured brass and brass birds coated with a patina of cupric nitrate and sulfurated potash. These striking finishes added the metallic colors of gold, silver and turquoise to the 12 glass colors. The larger glass-and-metal birds provide unique backlit outlines not possible with glass alone.
The swiveling birds and the constantly changing skylight backdrop give a life to the piece as the light and movement offer a unique visual presentation at any given moment. UAB is Alabama's largest medical facility, and the third largest in the nation, treating more than a million patients annually through its hospitals and clinics. The North Pavillion is an 885,000 square foot, 11-story medical facility that serves as the main concourse into the UAB Hospital complex, which covers six city blocks.