Portal – Ágnes-Heller-Haus University of Innsbruck

It is both a perceptual and a conceptual phenomenon, a delight to the subtle combination of eye and mind that is most sensitive to pattern Douglas R. Hofstadter: Metamagical Themas, 1985

Sculptor Peter Sandbichler created a minimalist yet powerful sculptural gesture for the main portal of Innsbruck’s new university building. His sculptural intervention spans approximately 120m² and explores the relationship between seeing and perceiving as the foundation of scientific thinking. The work is a three-dimensional adornment consisting of basic elements that are repeated over and over. In each repetition, however, a few parameters are modified so that the eye can trace the gradual change. Sandbichler directly references parquet deformation as defined by the physicist Douglas R. Hofstadter, who, in 1985, demonstrated that the gradual transformation of a pattern creates a temporal progression. By overlapping and rotating circles, Sandbichler creates a pattern of pyramids with a diamond-shaped base in the cut surface of the arch. These unfold along the arch like a mountain range, with the segments starting out shallow near the ground and getting deeper towards the centre of the arch.

The three-dimensional adornment transforms the functional entranceway into a portal with a strong spatial and atmospheric impact on both the inside and outside areas of the building. By bringing together humanities and natural sciences in a sophisticated way at the central entrance to the university building, the artist crafted an abstract metaphor for access to education and knowledge as well as for the complexity of the sciences. At the same time, he created a physically explorable, atmospheric space. The adornment is now an integral part of the building’s design and holistically designates the university as a place that unites research and teaching.