top of page

> Mirage



Cast glass, Sand, Glass structures, Architectural glass, Deserts, Glass column.

Project duration

2021 - 2022

Initiated by


Research Team (at TU Delft)

Dr. T. Bristogianni, Dr. F. Oikonomopoulou, M. Ioannidis, Prof. dr. M. Overend


Apple, EOC Engineers, Zeller & Moye Architects, Katie Patterson


A new public art sculpture made of sand from 58 of the world’s deserts will transform the appearance of an olive grove outside of the Apple campus’ visitor centre by the summer of 2022. Named “Mirage” by Scottish artist Katie Paterson and the German architecture firm Zeller & Moye, the sculpture will consist of more than 400 solid cast glass columns made out of the various desert sands and formed into wave-like forms mimicking a desert dune. According to Paterson, Mirage will contain sand from subtropical deserts, coastal, rain-shadow, interior, mountainous, volcanic and fossilized deserts. It will be no small of a challenge to obtain sand from every desert in the world, melt it down to glass and assemble it in Cupertino. A project of this scale has never been realized before and it will require cooperation on a global level to achieve it. 

The aim of the installation is to spark wonder and awe, creating meaningful connections to nature in a gathering place that blends art, architecture, science, and nature. Mirroring the sculpture’s name, the glass forms will melt into the landscape like a desert mirage as they wind through the trees. Visitors interacting with the artwork are invited to slow down and tune into the immensity and preciousness of our planet as they move through the deserts of the world.

The project involved a large team of artists, architects, geologists and desert experts, all with the goal of creating an outdoor public space at the company’s Cupertino headquarters. TU Delft team’s role was to inform the design, engineering and manufacturing process of the cast glass columns of the Mirage Sculpture, by experimentally studying and defining the influence of foreign, impure sand additions to the basic batch recipe. The research work, led by dr. Telesilla Bristogianni and dr. Faidra Oikonomopoulou, and with the help of Menandros Ioannidis and scientific input of prof. dr. Mauro Overend and dr. Fred Veer, started with the analysis of the chemical composition and crystallographic structure of 70 different desert sands, investigating, among others, the level of purity of each sand and the presence of undesired contaminants. The TU Delft team then conducted multiple melting experiments at the TU Delft Glass Lab facilities in order to establish the relationships between the sand characteristics and the colour hue and tint of the resulting glass. In this way, they developed a method to predict and control the exact composition and coloration of each glass column, while preventing the presence of critical defects in the glass, fulfilling the vision of the architects and artist. The TU Delft team also carried out mechanical testing on cast glass specimens, performed statistical analysis of the obtained results to derive representative strength data, and further advised the engineering team of Eckersley O’ Callaghan on the detailing of the connections and worked with the architects and artist on the sequencing of the cast glass production to ensure the desired coloration of each batch of cast glass columns. The Mirage Sculpture was revealed to the public on summer 2023.


Funded by



Client: Apple

Architecture studio: Zeller & Moye

Artist: Katie Paterson

R&D on glass recipes, coloration and casting sequence: TU Delft ReStruct Group

Structural Engineers: Eckersley O’ Callaghan (Prof. James O’ Callaghan)

Glass Casting Studio: John Lewis Glass


Contact (at TU Delft)

bottom of page