The Art of BIG Art

By Carmen Summerfield

Next time you’re in Anchorage, check out Pat Garley’s latest creation, “Changing the World”. This huge sculpture is located near the UAA Engineering and Computation Building, on UAA Drive.

The University of Alaska Anchorage had recently added the Engineering and Industry Building, and wanted an art piece on the campus grounds, appropriate to engineering. This sculpture was funded as part of the 1% for the Arts program, with assistance from the Alaska State Counsel on the Arts.

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Pat Garley responded to the Request For Proposals (RFP) with his design, depicting basic engineering tools though the ages. He explained his goal “to create a sculpture to represent the contributions of engineers through the years and their continued contributions in the future, that with the simplest of tools and their knowledge, engineers have changed the world. From the pyramids, to the space shuttles, to the buildings we use every day, the science of engineering changes the world.”

Pat likes BIG sculptures, and his sculpture “Changing the World” is over 41 feet tall and stands on a 30-foot wide circular concrete base. It depicts the three basic engineering instruments, a slide rule, a compass and a plumb bob. The materials used are stainless steel, bronze and acrylic.

The slide rule, also known as a slip-stick, is a mechanical analog computer. The slide rule is used primarily for multiplication and division, and also for functions such as exponents, roots, logarithms and trigonometry, but typically not for addition or subtraction.

I never used a slide rule, but my older sister did in the early 1970’s. So that gives you a little bit of an idea of my age. (I used an early electronic hand held calculator)

A bow compass is a technical drawing instrument that can be used for inscribing circles or arcs. As dividers, they can also be used as tools to measure distances, in particular on maps. Compasses can be used for mathematics, drafting, navigation and other purposes.

A plumb bob, or plummet, is a weight, usually with a pointed tip on the bottom, suspended from a string and used as a vertical reference line, or plumb-line. It is essentially the vertical equivalent of a "water level".

Although these three basic engineering tools have now been generally superseded by electronic versions, the basic engineering tools will remain in use through the ages, changing the world…