'Cognition Enhancer' – Santa Fe, New Mexico - Atlas Obscura

'Cognition Enhancer'

This sculpture perfectly models the molecular structure of a drug that was never produced.  

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Spanish and Pueblo architecture, Native American art, chili pepper ristras, and the high desert landscape all combine to paint the perfect picture of Santa Fe. Add to that this giant marauding spiro-heterocycle and visitors will begin to feel a bond with the ancient city on a molecular level.

Certainly a far cry from the myriad of western-themed sculptures that populate Canyon Road, this monumental rendering of a drug, known only as the “cognition enhancer,” certainly stands out.

Created in 1999 by artist Steve Kline for the nearby Daylight Chemical Information Systems company, the mammoth molecule models at about one trillion times life size a compound that sadly was never approved. This prevented the drug from garnering a proper name.

The company itself develops software to represent chemical structures and commissioned this colossal compound to artistically illustrate their corporate vision. The sculpture is scientifically accurate down to the angles of the bonds between atoms. The phenomenal pharmaceutical was chosen because its purpose as a cognition enhancer mirrored the company’s purpose to enhance the world’s thinking about chemistry.

Battered by weather and periodically the victim of graffiti artists, the molecule is generally well cared for by the mindful neighborhood where it resonates as a community nucleus.

Know Before You Go

The molecule is northwest of downtown Santa Fe, near the northwest corner of Gregg Avenue and Calle Mejia. It's about a quarter-mile west of Route 285.