MSP Airport – The Aurora Sculpture

Location St. Paul, Minnesota
Architect Alliance
Contractor Morcon Construction

Suspended through an oval opening between the ticketing and baggage claim levels at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport’s (MSP) Terminal 1 is a 29-foot-high glass and metal sculpture called The Aurora. Designed by artist-engineer Jen Lewin, the eye-catching focal point is made even more dramatic by an elliptical perimeter railing system custom-designed and fabricated by Trex Commercial. Featuring 90 linear feet of high-end glass fin railing panels positioned vertically around the second story overlook and framed with stainless-steel handrail, the ultra-custom system offers an artistic complement that protects both onlookers and the sculpture itself. The clear glass fins and knife plates are expertly fit using steel connection pieces that bridge the individual panels to the bottom of the railing system. Trex Commercial leveraged its 3-D laser scanning and sheet metal laser cutting capabilities to verify the elements’ precise dimensions to ensure secure attachment. Additionally, slip-critical conditions between the faying surfaces of the connected fins and knife plates maximize friction for added stability. The Aurora features an aerial wave of more than 20,000 aluminum rings and nearly 2,000 hand-blown glass bulbs with color-changing LEDs. Using live weather data, the sculpture reflects Minnesota’s seasonal shifts with light displays that change from blues and whites in winter, to greens and yellows in spring, and oranges and reds in fall. Rounding out the display is an interactive cluster of reflective glass platforms beneath the installation, which take the shape of public lakes in the area and trigger swirling light and colors to match the seasonal themes of the sculpture. The dazzling installation is a highlight of the international aviation hub, one of the oldest airports in the country and the busiest in the Midwest.