William Conrad Severson – Maquina

William Conrad Severson


Stainless steel
18 ft. tall
Commission funded by donors to the Campaign for Wisconsin

Máquina, Spanish for machine, by William Conrad Severson bridges both art and engineering. The stainless steel fountain features two perpendicular semi-circle halves that hover, almost interlocking. Water jets out of the sculpture completing the semi-circles and streams to where it is collected in a reflecting pool. Viewers can interact with the sculpture by waving their hand over sensors located along the walkway that trigger the fountain to spray. The words “Descendant’s Fountain” are embossed into the concrete near the path, reminding passersby of the college’s educational legacy.

Máquina also provides a learning tool in the engineering department. Students are responsible for the sculpture’s routine mechanical maintenance. They also have the opportunity to manipulate and learn from the fountain’s mechanical properties in a small, underground lab space. Of the sculpture Severson noted, “Máquina represents the engineer’s tools, their aesthetics, and the engineer’s role in creative problem solving.”

The fountain’s water features are currently (2017) not operating.

William Conrad Severson is an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin who later resettled in Saint Louis. He frequently collaborated with his partner Saunders Schultz on public artwork sited throughout the country.


Máquina is located at Engineering Mall between University Avenue and Engineering Drive.


“Fountain of Knowledge:  Students Maintain Campus Centerpiece.” UW-Madison College of Engineering, Perspective Vol. 35, No. 2 2009

Pedestrians walk past as others study on Engineering Mall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison