Olafur Eliasson debuts 'Atmospheric wave wall', the New Cultural Landmark in Chicago

A pattern of 1,963 metal tiles inspired by Lake Michigan

by Archilovers
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Atmospheric wave wall, a new cultural landmark and the first public art installation in Chicago by globally acclaimed artist Olafur Eliasson, has been revealed.

Prominently displayed on the exterior Jackson Blvd. wall, the original piece was created specifically for Willis Tower. Atmospheric wave wall provides a free and accessible way to experience world-class art outdoors in the Loop.

Atmospheric wave wall creates a dynamic experience that is activated by the motion of people walking, driving, or biking past; by the motion of the earth in relation to the sun as light moves across it; and by changes in the season and weather. Each tile is curved, like a fragment of the inner surface of a sphere, and the main blue, deep green and white tones were inspired by the surfaces of nearby Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. The powder-coated steel catches the light of the sun, and the concave surfaces collect shadows that shift as the day progresses. At night, the piece is lit from behind so flashes of light escape through the interstices between the tiles. The massive piece measures roughly 30’ x 60’ and covers the exterior Jackson Blvd. wall with a pattern of 1,963 metal tiles.

“It was a great pleasure for me to create a work of art specifically for Willis Tower and for Chicago,” said Olafur Eliasson. “Inspired by the unpredictable weather that I witnessed stirring up the surface of Lake Michigan, Atmospheric wave wall appears to change according to your position and to the time of day and year. What we see depends on our point of view: understanding this is an important step toward realizing that we can change reality. It is my hope that this subtle intervention can make a positive contribution to the building and to the local community by reflecting the complex activity all around us, the invisible interactions and minute fluctuations that make up our shared public space.”


Atmospheric wave wall by Olafur Eliasson from Willis Tower on Vimeo.

Atmospheric wave wall is a permanent fixture on the exterior of Willis Tower’s Jackson Blvd. wall and is available for public viewing.