University of Minnesota

Stepped Tower

Jackie Ferrara

Jackie Ferrara (born 1929, Detroit, MI)

Stepped Tower, 2000


60 ft. h X 10 ft. w X 10 ft. w

Location: Outside Elmer L. Andersen Library, west bank campus

Towers host an extraordinary range of identities, mostly real, some imaginary. To me as a child they were fairy tale places like castles and dungeons that I read about in books but never saw. I imagined them with a single room way at the top, sometimes a sanctuary, sometimes a prison. Later I learned about other kinds of towers.

There are memorial towers and towers that mark a place. There are religious towers and civic towers, water towers and cooling towers, bell towers and lookout towers, broadcast towers and aircraft control towers. There are towers that are observatories, chimneys, granaries, lighthouses, oil derricks, and windmills.

Sited by the Mississippi at the bridgehead walk, Stepped Tower in form, material, and intent is influenced by and pays homage to the new library. Constructed of decreasing lengths of stacked granite, it rises 120 steps to a height of 60 feet. The stone is Radiant Red with a thermal finish, a surface rougher than either honed or polished, closer in texture to the brick for the library.

The tower is a collection of subtly tapering stacks of stone. On each of its four sides a center spine of alternating mortar joints climbs two thirds up the tower. On the top third at every eighth course a band of square stones wraps around the tower. The five bands accent the stepped form and skew the geometry of the vertical spine by laying it horizontally.

Stepped Tower will wear different skins in different season. Its surface will change with the sun’s movement. It is a marker locating the library, a monument in honor of learning, a place for people to meet, and a tribute to its unique site.

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