Charlotte professor’s ‘Connected’ installed in Duke Energy headquarters

Categories: General News

Thomas Schmidt’s large-scale artwork “Connected” has been installed in Duke Energy Plaza, the company’s headquarters in uptown Charlotte.

Schmidt employed student and alumni assistants in the creation of “Connected.” The 75-foot wall installation is composed of 175 porcelain panels and 50 mirrors and is based on a map of Charlotte’s electrical grid.

Tom Schmidt

“I was interested in finding a way to visualize our interconnectedness in a community, particularly the kind of shared resources, the interconnection that we experience in our day-to-day lives,” said Schmidt, an associate professor in the College of Arts + Architecture.

Building on years of creative research, Schmidt says his process involved a fluid exchange between traditional “analog” craft techniques and new digital technologies, as he moved back and forth between 2-D and 3-D and physical and virtual products.

He began by digitally compiling city maps, which he then printed, marked and manually folded along electrical grid lines — rendering the two-dimensional paper map into a subtle three-dimensional landscape.

Using a handheld device, Schmidt 3-D scanned the map to digitally capture the paper peaks and valleys and then, on his computer, divided the digital topography into a grid of 16 panels, each 12×12 inches.

Sixteen resin models were used to make plaster molds to cast porcelain tiles from liquid clay (slip), which were glazed and fired in a kiln.

Once completed, the nearly 200 porcelain tiles were translated into a digital format with 3-D modeling software, allowing Schmidt to visualize patterns and decide on placements before physically installing the pieces.

“I could virtually create the composition in the 3-D modeling software,” Schmidt explained, “and play with the flow and movement of the linear elements.”

The final work, which extends across three walls, includes 50 mirrored panels that “serve as a disruptive mechanism to the porcelain surface, altering tile, reflecting the environment, lighting — even the people as they pass through the space,” he said.

Read more on the College of Arts + Architecture website at