Polyvolume 1967

Mary Vieira

7′29 · DE/CH dialect  · de/en · 2024

The users of the library of the University of Basel can not only read, learn, and do research, they can also play. This is what Polyvolume by Mary Vieira invites them to do. The director of the library Alice Keller and Andreas Ruby, director of the Swiss Architecture Museum, present the sculpture located at the heart of the library and just can't help it: they too soon begin to play reshaping the Brazilian sculptor’s enchanting stele. 


Andreas Ruby

S AM Swiss Architecture Museum

Alice Keller

Universtitätsbibliothek Basel



A metal axial pole rises up roughly 3.5 m from the center of a hexagonal foundation, which serves perfectly as well as seating. Assembled upon this axle are more than 700 precisely cut, thin metal plates that can be rotated. Created in 1966–68 from anodized aluminum, the stele is installed in the hexagonal foyer of the main building, which Otto Senn designed as an extension of the University of Basel library in 1962–68. Through her artwork Polyvolume Mary Vieira reinforces the architectonic shape of the building. In addition to the striking reference to the architecture, the sculpture is characterized by its simple elegance and the built-in invitation to library visitors to playfully co-shape the sculpture and thereby serve a role in its ongoing changing form.  


Mary Vieira

Mary Vieira (b. 1927 in Sao Paolo; d. 2001 in Basel) came to Europe in 1951 and lived in Milan and Basel, where she had her first exhibition in 1958. In 1964 she was represented at the Expo in Lausanne with a Polyvolume work and was also the first artist to be able to set up a studio in the Kaserne when it was converted for cultural use. She increasingly concentrated on stele-like basic structures with adjustable elements that can be constantly rearranged and redesigned by the viewer. Vieira received several international awards, was commissioned to create numerous works for public space, and contracted by renowned architects for art on and in buildings.  

Artworks in the film
MARY VIEIRA 1927 – 2001
Polyvolume 1967
map icon Schönbeinstrasse / Basel

Bau- und Verkehrsdepartement