Flight, date unknown

Gertrude Schweitzer

On the campus of Columbia University, cross the plaza that stretches over Amsterdam Avenue between 116th and 118th Streets (it would be above 117th Street if 117th Street crossed Amsterdam Avenue, which it doesn't). Walk along the left side of the Law School building to a small, raised section of grass. Flight is located at the far end of the patch of grass.

Flight is an 8-foot-high, stainless steel obtuse triangle, balanced on one corner, and leaning towards its obtuse angle so that its hypotenuse creates a line that moves diagonally into the air. The triangle is a few inches thick, with its two faces parallel to each other. Its pedestal is made mostly of stone, with a stainless steel section on top from which the sculpture rises.

The faces of the triangle are highly reflective, although slightly textured, causing reflected images to be mildly distorted. The surfaces of the three edges of the triangle contrast with the reflective faces in that they are smooth with a matte finish. The stainless steel on the pedestal also has this smooth, matte finish. This means that it is easy to see the surrounding buildings and the sky reflected in the triangle's faces, but not in the metal of the sides or the pedestal.

Schweitzer gave Flight to Columbia University in 1979. In choosing a location for this sculpture, the school had to consider not only the way in which the sculpture would visually interact with its surroundings, but also maintenance issues raised by permanently placing a stainless steel sculpture out of doors [1]. The possibility of housing Flight indoors was suggested [2], but the sculpture found a final home outside Columbia's Law School.

Possible discussion themes
How does outdoor placement affect the way we see a work of art?
Because of Flight's highly reflective surfaces, it is practically impossible to look at the piece without also seeing its surroundings—images of building and the sky are a part of the sculpture in the form of reflections.

Related art works
Three-Way Piece: Points.
Located just a few feet away at the edge of the overpass across Amsterdam Avenue, this piece also invites the viewer to look at a sculpture in contrast to the surrounding architecture. The curves of the piece stand in contrast to the straight lines of many of the nearby buildings, but at the same time accentuate the round walls of one of the closest buildings.

Life Force.
This piece is located just across the overpass from Three-Way Piece: Points. It is situated just above the middle of Amsterdam Avenue, and standing next to the sculpture, a viewer has the unusual chance to look down a long New York Avenue without the having to move away quickly to avoid oncoming traffic. The piece also has a hole cut through the center, inviting the viewer to see the city beyond while looking at the sculpture.


  1. Letter from Professor Adolf Placzek to VP Robert M. Broberg, May 4, 1979, Office of Art Properties files, Columbia University.
  2. Letter from Professor Adolf Placzek to VP Robert M. Broberg, May 4, 1979, Office of Art Properties files, Columbia University.

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