Courtyard at Oregon State University Ann Hamilton The DNA Project

The Courtyard at Oregon State University, located within Cordley Hall.


This project is part of the Oregon One Percent for the Arts in Public Building Programs, specifically for the Cordley Hall Renovation at Oregon State University. Collaborating with the departments of Integrative Biology and Botany and Plant Pathology, the artist, Ann Hamilton, proposed a unique concept: to imprint the courtyard pavement with the DNA sequence of the last universal common ancestor (LUCA), a genetic code shared by all living organisms.


To bring this concept to life, the team opted for segmental concrete pavers that resembled printed letters. Each paver was individually stamped with a metal mold, displaying a segment of the LUCA DNA code. These pavers were then arranged in a specific order, considering color, orientation, and the letter they represented. The paver fabrication experts at Western Interlock developed a dry concrete process that allowed for precise custom stamping, resulting in a visually stunning product. The installation team at Sequoia Stonescapes meticulously placed these custom pavers across the 6,000-square-foot courtyard.


The final installation is a breathtaking fusion of art and science, seamlessly merging the realms of biology and design. The pavers, varying in color, form intricate strings of letters, spelling out a selection of text from biologist William Emerson Ritter, reimagined to convey the beauty and interconnectedness of life. Both artist Ann Hamilton and the university aspire for this collaboration’s success and the courtyard’s beauty to serve as inspiration for future partnerships between artists and scientists.

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