Stata Center | Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson

Northwest Passage, 2018

Stainless, steel, LED lights, diffusers


Commissioned with MIT Percent-for-Art Funds and generous gifts from Robert Sanders (’64) & Sara-Ann Sanders, Fotene & Tom Coté, The David Bermant Foundation, Donors to the 2014 McDermott Award Gala, and the Council for the Arts at MIT.

In my time taking computer science classes at MIT, I’ve spent countless hours in, at, and around the 30-numbered Vassar street buildings. Although I walked past artwork every day, I realized that I had never taken the time to really appreciate it, or learn some of the history of how it got there. This tour is the result of my and some of my CSAIL friend’s curiosity about our surroundings.

This tour was created by Claire Traweek, class of 2020. Traweek was a List Center student guide for four years.

Northwest Passage is installed in the breezeway of the MIT.Nano building (Building 12). Its mirrored panels represent the broken ice floes that have accompanied both climate change and the opening of new Arctic shipping routes to the Pacific Ocean. The ring-shaped lights seem to thread through the building itself, an illusion that intensifies at dusk and dawn. Both a symbol and a warning, the piece serves as a reminder to an institution that has the ability to provide the technology the world needs to navigate the climate crisis. Coincidentally, this works placement alongside MIT.Nano does point North-West. 

Building Number: 12

Accession Number: PFA.2018.002