Rocket, a dazzling 21st-century monolithic rocket-shaped installation, created by sculptor and aviator Hubert Phipps was recently dedicated at the Boca Raton Innovation Campus (BRiC), the landmark Midcentury Modern IBM tech complex designed by Marcel Breuer & Robert Gatje, Architects (1968- 1974) where the first IBM commercial PC was invented and produced.
Although last Monday night’s dedication did not attract the 3,500 who attended IBM’s ceremonial dedication on March 31, 1970, a tent filled with guests was spared September’s late afternoon rain as temperatures plunged to 90 degrees for the sculpture’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. The Phipps-designed work was selected as part of a new public art program, a cultural partnership between the Boca Raton Museum of Art and CP Group, formerly Crocker Partners, the owner of the 1.7 million square-foot office complex, known as Florida’s largest single-office facility.
I must admit an inherent skepticism about “public art projects,” regarding them the antithesis of Art. Late Friday afternoon I thought I would drive down to Boca Raton and take a look at Rocket. If I wasn’t swept away, I would take a walkaround the Marcel Breuer magnum opus, reminiscent of the ensemble of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. Glad I did. Rocket? Simply sensational!
Informed as much by aeronautic engineering and “sci-fi retro futurism,” Rocket stands 30 feet, weighs nearly 10 tons, and is composed of more than 2,000 square-feet of stainless steel. After all, steel was once the Phipps family business. Having studied at New York’s Art Students League and San Francisco’s Art Institute, Hubert’s art career was interrupted by several years as a pro racing car driver.
Since his first show in 2016 at New York’s Studio School, Phipps has shown in solo and group exhibitions in Florida, New York, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Massachusetts. Based in Middleburg, Virginia, Phipps is a frequent seasonal Palm Beach resident, commuting in his Airbus Helicopter H-120. Phipps is a recent appointment to the Board of Trustees of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
From fabrication to dedication
“I like things that are different. That is what fascinates me about abstract art; the mystery of it. For the most part I think I know what I am looking at as I go about my daily routine, and that is reassuring. Especially when I am out navigating the byways and the skyways. Yet I yearn to discover new worlds, otherworldly type worlds that are lurking in the deeper recesses of the mind.” — Hubert Phipps, 2021.
IBM Boca Raton, 1968-1974
Marcel Breuer & Robert Gatje, Architects
Boca Raton Innovation Campus
CP Group – Boca Raton
When IBM announced in 1967 their purchase of 550 acres near Florida Atlantic University and the Boca Raton Executive Airport for a new 620,000 square-foot manufacturing/development complex, architects Marcel Breuer and Robert Gatje had already accepted the commission for the design. For the Boca Raton project, Breuer adapted his 1961 design for the IBM Research Center in France, reworking the Y-shaped buildings supported by Y-shaped columns into a much larger configuration for a far different climate.
The Boca Raton site was planned to house a three-story administration and product test building, a three-story development laboratory building, a manufacturing building, cafeteria, a materials distribution center, and a utility plant, leaving areas for further expansion as IBM continued its worldwide. The ground floor was designed for offices, punctuated by Breuer’s signature tree-like columns, accommodating a covered walkway that connected the full length of the buildings. These first-floor offices were composed with aluminum and glass. The columns were the only poured-in-place concrete on site besides the staircases. The upper-level floors were composed of pre-cast panels, similar to what IBM implemented at the French Research Center.
Lakeside arcades connect the buildings
Photography Augustus Mayhew.