Olafur Eliasson: the Architect’s Artist

By Lecia Bushak, REA Intern

In today’s technologically-driven world, a contemporary artist must often be a hybrid of many disciplines: architect, philosopher, engineer; something like a 21st century Leonardo da Vinci.

Olafur Eliasson is a Danish-Icelandic artist who creates immersive environments that mirror extreme landscapes and atmospheres.  Through the use of geometric constructions, light projections, mirrors, water, and other natural elements, Eliasson’s works transform the gallery space into a sensory experience.  He works closely with architects in various fields–including landscape architects and architecture theorists.

You may recall him as the artist who created the New York City waterfalls a few years back — he currently runs a studio called Studio Olafur Eliasson in Berlin.  It’s a laboratory for “spatial research” with a team of 30 architects, engineers, craftsmen, and assistants who work together on sculptures, installations, and commissions.

Façade for Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre, 2011

Quasi Brick Wall, 2002

Take your time, 2008

Take Your Time – A 1,000-lb mirror was mounted on the ceiling at MoMA P.S.1 and rotated at one revolution per minute in order to destabilize the viewer’s notion of space as they walked, lay, or sat beneath it.

The Weather Project, 2003

The Weather Project was installed in London’s Tate Modern as part of the Unilever series.  The installation filled all of Turbine Hall.  Eliasson used humidifiers to create a fine mist, and hung a semi-circle of hundreds of monochromatic lamps radiating single frequency yellow light near the ceiling.  The ceiling itself was covered with huge mirrors, reflecting the semi-circle to create the illusion of a full sun.  The result had the quality of an atmospheric, surreal mirage.

Umschreibung, 2004

Umshreibung, which means “Rewriting” was built in the courtyard of KPMG–a global accounting firm–in Munich.  The stairs are 9 meters high; the spiral is a beautiful intertwining of art and architecture.

Your rainbow panorama, 2006-2011

Your rainbow panorama is a transparent glass ring constructed on top of the ARoS Museum of Art in Aarhus, Denmark.  Every color in the spectrum is represented in the glass; each color thus marks the physical location of the viewer, acting as a visual compass.

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