The Ronald F. Walker Tower at the University of Cincinnati
University of Cincinnati features an iconic tower designed by Machado Silvetti with Zahner-manufactured stainless steel. The monument acknowledges the contributions of the Sigma Sigma Fraternity. Machado Silvetti’s design provides an apex which represents both the University and the Sigma Sigma fraternity.
The tower has a number of symbolic aspects in its design. Its square base forms the letters U and C on alternating sides. Above these letters, the main wooden shafts rise in the form of hammers. These motifs reflect the fraternity’s motto, “The torch burns; the hammers ring.” At the top, a beam of light shines through a stylized stainless steel torch and changes colors through the use of a computer program.
Zahner was involved in various metal components, and the stainless steel perforated “flame” at the sculpture’s top. The fifty foot high permanent artwork was commissioned by The University of Cincinnati in 1998.
The tower establishes a formal entrance to the new Commons from University Avenue. As a placemark on the school’s campus, it marks a memorable place for the university community. To this end, employing a design technique of totemic origins, the design stacks varied elements that legibly symbolize the university and the fraternity. Firmly set on its cast in situ concrete base, the tower forms the university’s monogram, representing the institution’s foundational role.
Above, a shaft of dark wood, polished metal, and precast concrete convey the fraternity’s symbols, the hammer and the Greek letters — or labor and the culture of Occident. On top, a lantern of perforated stainless steel construction stands for enlightenment and knowledge, the ultimate goal of the school and its people.
While the legibility of these symbols by those who belong to this community is important, the arcane opacity the tower produces in those who do not know or belong is equally important to us. The tower produces an effect in those who witness it — an enigmatic, strange, and perhaps even seductive effect. The shear result of form and materials and light longing to attain beauty is equally memorable.