Julian Wild sculpture – ‘Origin’ at the new Big Data Institute, Oxford University

Julian Wild hired StructureMode when the original structural engineer couldn’t deliver his artistic vision for ‘Origin’ at the Big Data Institute, Oxford University. The sculpture has been shortlisted for the Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture. Previous winners include Anthony Gormley and Carmody Groarke Architects.

Julian Wild’s design encapsulates the concept of cross-disciplinary collaboration which is at the heart of this new facility, where they hope to make new discoveries in the field of genetics. The brief required an artwork that worked with the landscaping and architecture that also referenced the use of the site.

The sculpture is made of 6mm mild steel plates welded into 400mm hollow box sections. The sculpture is in two parts that are each bolted to the ground at one end, rise 6m and cantilever 6m towards one another but do not quite touch. As they approach each other they split into many smaller cast stainless steel highly-polished hollow sections that are welded in a seemingly random pattern.

The fractured elements towards the centre represent data being shared. This required close collaboration with Julian on the placement of each piece, to ensure that it would be structurally sound. To communicate this, StructureMode produced a maquette from rigid insulation, cut to the same size as the steel pieces, and assembled using a glue gun. This was a really simple but highly effective method of resolving a complex geometric problem – simple is best!

  • Designer: Julian Wild
  • Photography: Anne Purkiss