A rendering of the canopy at Union Station Plaza

Union Station Plaza Canopy

Raleigh Arts

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Project Details

The artwork for the Raleigh Union Station exterior canopy comes directly from ideas, concepts, and goals that underpin the overall design of the Union Station. Functionally, the artwork will provide the filtered shade which is essential to the character and use of the plaza. The artwork is directly related to a celebration of Raleigh’s industrial past and, in particular, the railroad heritage of the Warehouse District. Furthermore, the proposed art references the decorative ceilings found in many historic train stations across America.

Titled “Breath of Gods”, the overriding image of the canopy drives from old maps of the world from the 17th century which depicted the gods of the universe blowing breath into the ocean to propel sailboats around the globe as it was then known. The horizontal and vertical planes which make up the canopy skin are supported by steel which is overtly patterned after the original 1960 viaduct building and the distinctive railroad “semaphore” used to control and direct train traffic. The canopy is conceived of as an integrated structure with its structural members (the “W” columns, the “T” beams and purlins) working conceptually with the art panels.

The Raleigh Union Station Union Station’s plaza canopy has been designated as a public art component at the new multi-modal transit facility in downtown Raleigh. As a result of the percent for art program, $23,000 was allocated for Public Art and public artist, and Clearscapes founding member Thomas Sayre was commissioned to design the canopy. The Public Art and Design Board (PADB) worked with artist Thomas Sayre to develop concept designs for the artistic surface enhancements to the plaza canopy. The funding represents a half-percent of the $4,600,000 in City-contributed construction costs to the Union Station project in 2014. The site for public art for Raleigh’s Union Station is the large exterior “L”-shaped canopy on the east end of the project’s site. The structure for supporting the plaza canopy has already been incorporated into the Union Station construction budget and has been constructed as part of the Station. Sayre, a public artist and founding member of Clearscapes, P.A., designed the canopy. Sayre’s design is an integrated structural “skin” that provides filtered shade on Union Station’s plaza. The canopy is integral to the planning of the site and the character of the civic plaza along West Street. In response to multiple public meetings, the civic plaza is designed and will be programmed as an inviting public space with filtered shade for public functions and informal gatherings.

In December of 2018, the City of Raleigh accepted a $550,000 bequest from the estate of the late Victor and Carolyn Cavaroc. This generous gift to the City of Raleigh, in support of the public art proposed for Union Station Plaza, will serve as a fitting memorial to a couple dedicated to the arts and who traveled the world throughout their lives.


Estimated installation in Fall 2020.

About the Artist

Photo of artist Thomas Sayre

Thomas Sayre

Thomas Sayre is an American sculptor and painter. He designs and builds public art projects and private commissions all over the world. Sayre’s current work includes large paintings made with tar smoke, gunshots, welding material, earth, and fire.

Learn more about Thomas Sayre



Kelly McChesney
Public Art Director

Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Service Categories:
Raleigh Arts



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