sealPurdue News

April 20, 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 was 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" was unveiled at 9:30 a.m. today (Saturday, 4/20) in the heart of the Agricultural Mall, at the intersection of Marsteller and Wood streets. The ceremony featured 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 the 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' beautifies 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 – recognized 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" is mounted underground on a footing that is 16—by—16 feet wide, so the sculpture appears to emerge directly from the earth.

"The location of the sculpture brings 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, and he stayed on campus to help oversee the installation.

The massive installation effort required 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, was strategically located to provide a new gathering spot where people can sit, relax and share time together, he said. The beautification is part of an ongoing 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 believes the sculpture represents Purdue's engineering heritage and reflects its changing and expanding scope.

Across the road, work continues on the construction of 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

Workers on Friday (4/19) put finishing touches on "Transformation." The sculpture, donated to Purdue University by the Class of 1952, was unveiled today (Saturday, 4/20) during a ceremony on the West Lafayette campus. Spanish artist Faustino Aizkorbe was commissioned to create the work which he says symbolizes Purdue's continued evolution and changing nature, supported by the strength of its heritage. "Transformation" is located on Agricultural Mall, at the intersection of Marsteller and Wood streets. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)

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