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College of Architecture Gains Inspiration in Abstract Form

A steel sculpture by Robert Bruno is added to the Public Art Program at the Texas Tech University System.

April 20, 2015 | Written by Bailey Bauman

Sculpture by Robert BrunoFor the past 35 years, the sculpture was located in a cotton field and was said to have been the inspiration for Bruno's Steel House.

Texas Tech University System officials and guests celebrated today (April 20) the unveiling of the newest addition to its public art program with a dedication ceremony. The sculpture, Untitled, is a blend of art and architecture that was created by the late Robert Bruno, a prominent artist and former faculty member at the College of Architecture.

Located on the corner of 18th Street and Flint Avenue at the southwest corner of the Architecture building, the sculpture stands nearly 17 feet tall and weighs about 1,700 pounds. Untitled has been integrated into the existing space with the addition of a plaza that includes seating, landscape and information about the sculpture and Bruno.

Bruno was best known for his piece, Steel House, which is located in Ransom Canyon. Although it is new to many, Untitled spent the past 35 years located in a cotton field owned by Bruno’s friends and was said to have been the inspiration for the Steel House.

“It is said that some days Bruno would sit beneath the sculpture to eat lunch,” said Emily Wilkinson, public art manager for the TTU System. “Supposedly one day he remarked to his daughter that if he rebuilt it on a larger scale, maybe he could live in it. Thus began his life-long construction of Steel House, which remains unfinished.”

The purchase of the sculpture was made possible by the TTU System’s Public Art program, which was initiated by the Board of Regents in 1998 to enrich the campus environment and extend each university’s educational mission. Through the program, public artworks are funded using one percent of the estimated total cost of each new major capital project. Since then, more than 100 items created by some of today’s leading artists have been added to the TTU System’s campuses, the majority of which are originally commissioned.

“When the College of Architecture started its renovations, project representatives Michael Martin and Upe Flueckiger had a different idea for their public art piece,” Wilkinson said.

Martin and Flueckiger asked if the Untitled Bruno artwork could be purchased for the Public Art Collection, knowing it had been just sitting in a field.

Once this idea was approved by the Office of the Chancellor and the Public Art Committee, plans to purchase and move the sculpture to campus were finalized.

“Although Untitled is an abstract form, I’ve had people tell me it looks like an elephant or a buffalo,” Wilkinson said. “Bruno certainly found inspiration in his creation, and I wonder if he hoped the same for the response by the public.”

About the Texas Tech University System 
The Texas Tech University System is one of the top public university systems in the nation, consisting of four component institutions —Texas Tech UniversityTexas Tech University Health Sciences CenterAngelo State University and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso—and operating at 12 academic sites and centers.  Headquartered in Lubbock, Texas, the Texas Tech University System has an annual operating budget of $1.7 billion and approximately 17,000 employees focused on advancing higher education, health care, research and outreach around the globe. 

In 2014, the Texas Tech University System endowment exceeded $1 billion, total research expenditures were approximately $200 million and total enrollment approached 47,000 students. Whether it’s contributing billions of dollars annually in economic impact or being the only system in Texas to house an academic institution, law school and medical school at the same location, the Texas Tech University System continues to prove that anything is possible.