Combining art with structure (Part 2)

Posted in: Bridges, Highways


As a follow up to a previous article on the STH 54 project in Oneida, WI, the retaining wall was recently completed. This retaining wall is a companion structure to the STH 54 Bridge over Duck Creek and marks the final piece of the project that involved years of collaboration with local artists and engineers to combine art with structures along the project corridor.  The STH 54 Bridge over Duck Creek included Native American artwork from local tribal artists that connected the new bridge with the community.  The recently completed retaining wall is similar in that it also includes Native American artwork from local tribal artists but this wall is different in that it provides a graphical interpretation of the change of seasons along the retaining wall.

The retaining wall transitions subtly through the seasons of the year along the retaining wall.  From left to right the wall portrays the moon and then the sun as it would appear in the respective season starting with winter transitioning to the spring followed by the summer and fall.  Wind patterns sweep across the wall with each containing an element to the season such as snowflakes in the winter to falling leaves in the fall.

2This retaining wall provides the final piece to this project that combined local art with the structures needed from an engineering perspective to connect the community to the overall project through an artist’s perspective.  The final theme, artwork and the colors on the retaining wall were created through close collaboration with the engineers and artists to create a functional wall that the community can identify with.


John Rathke, PE, SE

About the Author

For John Rathke, P.E., S.E., it is more than managing more than 30 highway and bridge projects each year. It is about connecting with clients and listening to what is important. A leader in transportation engineering, John says that for him, the greatest reward is seeing the constructed product and sharing the pride and accomplishment with his clients, team and the public. According to John, “It’s all about teamwork.”

Read more posts by John Rathke, PE, SE

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