sealPurdue News

April 16, 2002

Class of '52 sculpture, arts building transform Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University, long known for its international reputation as a leader in engineering, the sciences and agriculture, is now flexing its artistic muscles.

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The transformation is under way at the south end of campus where a 40-foot bronze sculpture, designed by a renowned Spanish artist, is being installed this week next to the girders and beams forming the skeleton for Purdue's new $38 million visual and performing arts building.

Created by Faustino Aizkorbe, the sculpture "Transformation" will be unveiled at 9:30 a.m. Saturday (4/20) in the heart of the Agricultural Mall, at the intersection of Marsteller and Wood streets. The ceremony will feature comments by Purdue President Martin C. Jischke, Aizkorbe and Donald Roach, campaign co-chairman of the Class of 1952, which made the gift possible. The dedication is part of ongoing Discover Purdue celebrations, a yearlong campaign to highlight the university’s accomplishments and aspirations.

The Class of '52 raised $860,000 in private contributions for the sculpture and to provide Academic Success Awards for students. These awards provide students with four-year scholarships based on their high school academic records, then they must maintain a 3.5 grade point average while at Purdue.

"'Transformation' will beautify the campus – allowing the arts to complement and enhance our academic life," Jischke said. "At the same time, many students will benefit from new scholarship opportunities that have been created by a group of individuals who have demonstrated their commitment to their alma mater."

Roach said his classmates – many of them engineering and science graduates – recognize that a great university must embrace the arts.

"We are convinced that our gift will have a significant impact on the aesthetic quality of campus and will contribute to an environment that will help Purdue attract and retain high quality students, faculty and staff," he said.

"Transformation" will be mounted underground on a footing that is 16—by—16 feet wide, so the sculpture will appear to emerge directly from the earth.

"The planned location of the sculpture will bring more aesthetic prominence to the south end of campus, hopefully serving as a catalyst for future changes to Agriculture Mall, making it more pedestrian friendly," said John Collier, university architect. "We've certainly enjoyed working with Faustino. His warm and engaging style makes our language barrier easier to manage."

Aizkorbe (Pronounced eye-SKOR-bay) is well known for his large-scale abstract sculptures made from marble, steel, bronze, stone and wood. His polished surfaces, curved lines and circles combine to create self-standing forms, resembling and suggesting the connection to the pieces of a machine. Made of cast bronze, "Transformation" marks his first commissioned work in the United States.

The artist visited Purdue twice to meet with students, faculty and Class of '52 leaders before beginning the sculpture. He is currently on campus to help oversee the installation, which has already begun.

The massive installation effort also requires significant landscape modifications, the installation of a sidewalk and a new retaining wall, Collier said.

"Transformation," positioned at the west end of the future visual and performing arts building, is strategically located to provide a new gathering spot where people can sit, relax and share time together, he said. The beautification is part of a larger architectural master plan designed to form a "spine" that creates visual pathways and clear sight lines from the Agricultural Mall to the Class of '39 water sculpture and the bell tower.

Viewed from above, "Transformation" appears as if it were unfurling to create a symmetrical pattern, symbolizing what Aizkorbe refers to as Purdue's continued evolution and changing nature, supported by the strength of its heritage.

Aizkorbe said his inspiration for "Transformation" came when he visited the West Lafayette campus. He said Purdue reminded him of the Romanesque pillars and capitals required to support some of the world's great buildings. He wanted the sculpture to represent Purdue's engineering heritage and reflect its changing and expanding scope.

Across the road, work is well under way on the visual and performing arts building.

The 8,000 Purdue students annually enrolled in visual and performing arts classes will begin meeting in their new four-story, 166,700-square-foot building in fall 2003. The World War II-era "temporary" structures in which the art and design divisions currently conduct classes will be torn down to make way for a $45 million 125,000-square-foot home to the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, School of Materials Engineering and services and programs for engineering students.

"This visual and performing arts facility is the largest building under way at Purdue; no other building in the state will house this diversity of the arts," said David Sigman, head of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts. "I believe people will appreciate what Purdue has done – the excitement it has placed under one roof."

The university already has $27.75 million committed, and is continuing to seek contributions toward the remaining $11 million needed to complete the theater, music and art education program areas in the building. Most recently, Gordon and Carole Mallett, of Zionsville, Ind., have designated $770,000 for the project's studio theater, which will be named in their honor.

Writer: Jesica E. Webb, Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2079,

Sources: John Collier, (765) 494-6882; e-mail,

Don Roach, (508) 222-7282 or (401) 247-2414,

Reid Ricciardi, associate director of development, (765) 494-6241,

David L. Sigman, (765) 494-3056,

Related story:
Couples' $770,000 gift sets stage for new theater at Purdue

Jane Beering, former first lady of Purdue, and Faustino Aizkorbe, Spanish artist, discuss the installation of his 40-foot original sculpture "Transformation," Tuesday (4/16), on the Agricultural Mall at Purdue's West Lafayette campus . The sculpture, a gift from the Class of 1952, will be dedicated at 9:30 a.m. Saturday (4/20). (Purdue News Service photo by Dave Umberger)

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