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Architecture student Perry May wins School of Engineering design competition

Thursday, April 02, 2015

LAWRENCE — A piece of artwork that resembles the double helix of a DNA strand will adorn a prominent spot in the new engineering facility at the University of Kansas when it opens this fall.

The piece, known as "Structural Evolution," was selected as the winner of a structural art competition open to all KU students sponsored by the School of Engineering and A. Zahner Co., an international architectural metal and glass design, consulting and fabrication firm based in Kansas City, Missouri.

Perry May, a third-year student in the five-year Master of Architecture program, submitted the winning entry and will now work with Zahner on the final designs for the artwork, which is due to be installed this summer. It will be suspended from the ceiling in the two-story atrium area of the new engineering building.

“Conceptually, my sculpture represents the harmony and contrast in the relationship between the natural and the artificial. The stylized DNA-like shape is intended to remind its viewers of the critical role that engineers play in the evolution of mankind,” May said.

A panel of judges selected May’s work from five finalists. The sculpture will weigh around 2,000 pounds and measure about 35 feet long and 8 feet wide.

“I hope that my suspended piece of art will inspire the students who walk beneath to aim high and seek their rightful place in engineering history. The precisely fabricated sculpture is a manifestation of its own concept, born from the relationship between a designer’s imagination and an engineer’s computer,” May said.

May will work collaboratively with professionals at Zahner to fine-tune the design, prepare it for full-scale construction and see it through the installation process.

“Perry’s concept was selected due to its striking physical appearance but also because of the challenge it possessed. Building this sculpture will push us beyond our comfort zone,” said Craig Long, computational designer in research and development at Zahner. “We at Zahner relish the opportunity to collaborate with a designer on a provocative and ambitious design as that is what so often spurs innovation and serendipitous invention. We want the sculpture to make a statement about KU Engineering that also embodies the culture of innovation at KU.”

A few of the signature works by Zahner include the Kauffman Performing Arts Center and Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, as well as Cowboys Stadium in Dallas and Experience Music Project in Seattle as well as a number of iconic structures designed by architect Frank Gehry.