Iowa Department of Transportation
Adair County, IA
Completion date
January 2012

This Iowa Department of Transportation rest area facility in Adair County interprets the history of wind and its significant role in developing clean, renewable energy for the state of Iowa and the nation. 

The Art-in-Transit installation for the new Iowa Department of Transportation rest area in Adair County is entitled "Lift." Based on the evolutionary design of a bird's wing (the same scientific principle of physics that propels a wind turbine blade), the project interprets the story of wind energy production in Iowa. In a bold and innovative solution, a full-scale commercially made industrial turbine blade has become a monumental destination icon for the state. The lighted blade, extending over 165 feet in the air, can be seen from nearly a mile away.

The primary goal of the commission was to develop a site-specific narrative to engage the traveling public in a relevant story, welcome them to the new facility, and encourage them to stay longer to use the site. Evidence has shown that the greater the integration of the story, the greater the anticipation of the visitor, with higher use and longer stay directly related to safety on the highway. The installation does not depend upon one singular element but integrates many different sculptural components to create an overall experience for the visitor. The concept development and the integration of the artwork are critical to a methodology that connects fifteen other DOT facilities in a comprehensive traveling experience. People learn of state history and culture, while linking to other regional attractions and economic zones.

Artwork is not applied. Integration begins at the earliest conceptual development of the project; influencing site selection, materials, trails, color, function, and more. The visitor does not read a didactic plaque, but instead, finds oneself inside the story. The overall design is fun, entertaining, and educational at the same time. Integration allows the public to become part of the story and share it with others.


Critical to the success of the installation is the nearly two-year collaborative PROCESS, with public artist facilitation, to arrange the donation and use of the turbine blade. Only through the collaboration of the multidisciplinary design team, including the artist, architect, landscape architect, engineer, and owner, could the coordination of the myriad design details, structural engineering, liability insurance and contract negotiation have occurred. This collaboration included international manufacturing companies, utilities, government agencies, and the public.

Design options were tested, challenged, and revised; but the story and its significance to the location held the project together. Many professional design disciplines came together in an ongoing dialogue to make the project a reality. Mutual respect and exchange of ideas are at the heart of collaboration. Free-hand sketches evolved through the use of technology, in concert with fabricators and installers, to erect the vertical blade icon and other sculptural components of the installation. Without collaboration from the beginning, the back and forth between the design team and contractor, (with practical feedback from machinist to rigger to crane operator throughout the project) the project would not have been possible.

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