University Museums

Title: The Zodiac
Name: Architectural Element
Date: 1928
Medium: Bronze, marble and terrazzo
Dimensions: 80 in. (203.2 cm)
Classification: Architecture, Architectural Ornamentation and Elements
Credit Line: Commissioned by the Iowa State Memorial Union. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Location: Iowa State University, Memorial Union
Object Number: U2011.187
More Information
Architect/designer William T. Proudfoot chose to incorporate the ancient symbols of the zodiac into the north entry floor -- classic Greek/Roman mythology for a classic-Greek/Roman-style building. In the 20s, the zodiac was not as well known as it is now. Proudfoot planned for intentional wearing away of the bronze forms by placing them above the surface of the floor - to be sculpted further by building users until, eventually, they would be the same level as the floor. We know that by 1929, students had decided that if you stepped on the zodiac, it was unlucky – that you'd flunk your next test. Rumor has it that the students created this "curse" because they liked the raised effect of the zodiac and they wanted to preserve the zodiac signs even though it went against what the architect originally intended. Now most students, hedging their bets, walk around. If you accidently invoke the curse, you can throw a coin in the fountain to take it away!