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Buckyball sculpture installed at new Stanford Hospital

Visitors to the new Stanford Hospital will greeted by Bay Lights artist Leo Villareal's Buckyball, a 30-foot sculpture of illuminated geodesic domes.

Before patients and visitors enter the new Stanford Hospital, they'll be greeted by artist Leo Villareal's Buckyball, a 30-foot sculpture of nesting geodesic domes that illuminate and change color as the centerpiece of the entrance plaza.

Villareal, a pioneer of merging art and light technology, is best known locally for the The Bay Lights installation on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Like that project, the Buckyball is lined with LED lights that will be animated by software the artist developed. After the sculpture was installed at the hospital entrance last month, Villareal spent four nights putting the finishing touches on the lighting sequences.

 Leo Villareal, Buckyball, 2019; collection of Stanford Health Care; commissioned by Stanford Health Care with the generous support of Cissy Pao and Shinichiro Watari; © Leo Villareal

"Light is such a primal form. It's something... that we respond to in a deep way, almost like staring into a fire," Villareal said in a 2016 video. "It has this hypnotic quality that draws people to it."

Buckyball is the informal name for a giant molecule consisting of carbon atoms arranged in a soccer-ball shape, discovered by nanotechnologists at Rice University in the 1980s. They named it after Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller, an architect who is known as the inventor of the geodesic dome, a structure that resembles a sphere, but is built from interconnected straight bars.

The Buckyball is one of seven pieces of art commissioned for the new hospital. The others grace the atrium, the interfaith chapel and third floor rotunda, and the gardens. Including the commissioned pieces, the hospital will feature more than 400 original works of art, all either donated or paid for with private donations.

Photo courtesy of Stanford Health Care

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