Big Leaf – Dixie State University Amphitheater

Dixie State University | St. George, UT | Laser-cut, Corten steel | 2021


As part of a national request-for-qualifications process, Gordon Huether Studio was selected to complete the design, fabrication, and installation of a public art commission for Dixie State University in St. George, UT. The commission was intended for an amphitheater located outside a new Science, Tech, and Engineering building, and offers students a space to gather and to study.

Gordon’s approach to this site was to reimagine how it could become more welcoming, interactive, and inspiring while still allowing the accommodation of up to 80 people. Continuing the themes of science, tech, and engineering from the adjacent building, Gordon’s design is a canopy structure made of laser-cut, Corten steel that showcases a blend of both nature and technology. The nature aspect is manifested by recreating the experience of standing under a tree with dappled light coming through the leaves to create projected light patterns below. Technology is introduced by taking an image of a tree canopy and exploring different algorithms by digitizing the leaf pattern and then laser cutting the pattern into the material.

Exploring the relationship between technology and art was a major source of inspiration for this project. By processing photography through parametric algorithms, we discover beautiful patterns that are uniquely fit for laser cutting. We get to witness how a computer ‘sees’ our natural world, and then integrate the results via computer aided machining to create a unique artwork that viewers can interact with by looking up at the structure, or down at the patterns created by it. Through this concept, Gordon bridges life sciences with computer engineering and creates an inspired oasis that offers common ground for all disciplines to study, recharge, meet and interact.