Conceptual Model for General Motors Tech Center Screen, 1953
Brass and nickel melt-coated steel
10 x 16 x 2 inches
Harry Bertoia’s interest and expertise in metalwork unfolded at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, the progressive Detroit school centered on the unification of fine and applied arts. He opened the school’s metal workshop, and first applied the medium to the fabrication of small tableware objects and jewelry. Bertoia eventually expanded and enlarged his repertoire as his career progressed and he learned more technical metalworking skills, such as welding.
The present work is a model for the 36-foot long metal screen that Bertoia completed for the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. The General Motors screen was Bertoia’s first large-scale architectural commission, and it led to many more public commissions over the next two decades. The inspiration for this model was the leaf placements on the trees found on Bertoia’s Bally, Pennsylvania property. Bertoia began to work with brass (and nickel) melt-coatings onto steel plates to simulate brilliant, luster-reflective metallic leaves as a screen effect, as seen in the present work.