Behind the scenes at the making of the Apple glass sculpture Mirage

News - 20 September 2023 - Communication BK

The Mirage is an outdoor sculpture made of more than 450 glass cylindrical columns from 70 different types of desert sand. Its realisation was no easy task and required the collaboration of hundreds of people worldwide. For the past 2 years, the TU Delft Glass Group has been working behind the scenes on the R&D of this challenging cast glass sculpture. It is located in the olive grove adjacent to the Visitor’s Center at Apple Park in California and was designed by Katie Paterson and Zeller & Moye.

Desert sand

The role of the TU Delft team was to provide information for the design, engineering and manufacturing process of the Mirage Sculpture's cast glass columns. Experimentally, the influence of foreign impure sand additions to the basic batch recipe was studied and defined. The research work, led by Dr. Telesilla Bristogianni and Dr. Faidra Oikonomopoulou, started with the analysis of the chemical composition and crystallographic structure of 70 different desert sands. This included examining the level of purity of each sand and the presence of undesired contaminants. 

Photo: hot-pouring by Marcel Bilow

The TU Delft team then conducted multiple melting experiments at the TU Delft Glass Laboratory facilities in order to establish the relationships between the sand characteristics and the colour hue and tint of the resulting glass. In this way, they developed a method to predict and control the exact composition and coloration of each glass column, while preventing the presence of critical defects in the glass, fulfilling the vision of the architects and artist. The Delft team also carried out mechanical testing on cast glass specimens, performed statistical analysis of the obtained results to derive representative strength data, and further advised the engineering team of Eckersley O’ Callaghan on the detailing of the connections. 

More information

  • TU Delft R&D team of the Glass Group are: Dr. Telesilla Bristogianni & Dr. Faidra Oikonomopoulou (principal investigators), Menandros Ioannidis, Prof. Dr. Mauro Overend, Dr. Fred Veer.
  • Client: Apple | Architectural firm: Zeller & Moye | Artist: Katie Paterson | Structural engineers: Eckersley O' Callaghan (Prof. James O' Callaghan)
  • The Mirage Sculpture was unveiled to the public in the summer of 2023.
  • You can read more about the sculpture here.
Header image: © Mirage by Katie Paterson and Zeller & Moye, photo: Iwan Baan.