University Museums

Title: Warning-Biohazard
Name: Sculpture
Date: 1991
Medium: Terra-cotta
Dimensions: 56 x 96 x 4 in. (142.2 x 243.8 x 10.2 cm)
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line: An Iowa Art in State Buildings Project for the Molecular Biology Building. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Location: Iowa State University, Molecular Biology, North entrance/exterior wall
Object Number: U91.73
More Information
Above the north entrance hangs a single terra-cotta relief called 'Warning-Biohazard'. Two arms reach out from a design of jumbled letters on black and white tiles. When deciphered, the letters read: "HUMAN BEINGS ARE NOT YET
WISE ENOUGH TO DIRECT THE COURSE OF EVOLUTION." This is a quote from Robert Sinsheimer, a noted scientist in molecular biology. The two outstretched hands look like the black contamination gloves built into the sides of controlled experimental chambers. These gloves, however, reach out from the building into the environment as if to use us and our surroundings as their experimental chamber.

The G-Nome Project fully integrates art and architecture into the Molecular Biology Building. Since the artist, Andrew Leicester, was selected at the start of the project, he was able to work with the architectural firm Hansen Lind Meyer, Inc. to incorporate the art into the building's design. As a result, Iowa State University has gained a striking example of the successful merging of art and architecture, as well as a building rich in meaning and function.

When Leicester was commissioned by Iowa State to create this public art, he began to research the kinds of activities that would take place there. He found information at conferences, by attending lectures, by reading books, and through conversation with scientists and students. He kept a sketchbook of ideas and drawings on the subject. It became clear to him that the most debated area of current investigation in the field of molecular biology was transgenetic animal research with both the academic community and the public expressing their opinions. Philosophers, sociologists, animal scientists, and economists were among the many who were discussing the potential legal and economic implications of genetic research.