Multi-disciplinary engineering firm uses adaptive form-finding algorithms to give structure to undulating, ethereal piece of art
SEATTLE, March 18, 2014 /CNW/ - Arup, a multidisciplinary engineering and consulting firm with a reputation for delivering innovative and sustainable designs, announced today that it has provided engineering services for a 23,000 SF interactive 'sculpture in the sky' debuting at the 30th Anniversary TED conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The sculpture is a collaboration of artists Janet Echelman of Studio Echelman, and Aaron Koblin, creative director of Google's Data Arts Team. Arup is the engineering designer for the pre-stressed net sculpture entitled "Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks" that spans 745-feet between the roof of the 24-story Fairmont Hotel and the new Vancouver Convention Centre West across the waterfront. It is believed to be the largest pre-stressed rope structure in the world.
Arup's primary role was to create the geometric and structural design for the pre-stressed rope network that supports, and forms, an integral part of the sculpture. The firm developed custom software, implementing an "adaptive form-finding" algorithm to optimize the geometry and structure of this 3,200-pound sculpture, which was part of an overall digital work-flow from concept through to fabrication. The structural ropes that support the sculpture also have a strong visual presence and their patterning was carefully developed with the artist. The artist also used custom software created by Autodesk to model and test design feasibility.
"Engineering is at the very center of my process. I work closely with Arup at every stage of design. Our engineers help reveal design possibilities at the start, and ensure engineering integrity for the success of the installation," said Janet Echelman. "Each player becomes a craftsman whose responsibility is equally influential on the end result. Arup's technical involvement enabled my vision for this monumental work - my most technically ambitious to date - to be achieved."
Created by knotting almost one million feet of braided fiber, the soft surfaces of the sculpture undulate, making every ripple of wind visible to the human eye. It appears lighter than air, yet is designed to withstand wind speeds of up to 95 mph. The pre-stressed net is made of Honeywell Spectra®, a synthetic fiber 15-times stronger than steel.
"Echelman's sculptures are unique in that form and structure are directly linked. They exist in a continually changing state of dynamic equilibrium that balances the weight of the sculpture and its internal pre-stress forces against the currents of the wind. This defines the form, volume and texture of the hanging net sculptures," said Clayton Binkley, senior engineer/designer at Arup. "Because Arup's work has such a strong influence on the form, the process is highly iterative between Arup and Studio Echelman. Arup has a history of providing creative and unique solutions to non-traditional projects. For this sculpture we drew on precedents from other industries such as high performance sailing, industrial marine and fishing."
Highly collaborative, the engineers worked side-by-side with the fabricators and installers to ensure precision-point execution. This integrated collaboration enabled all pieces of the sculpture to come together seamlessly to create a presence in Vancouver that has been described by onlookers as 'sublime and magical.'
Arup has previously collaborated with Studio Echelman on the full-scale mock up for a piece entitled "Impatient Optimist" at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation campus headquarters in Seattle; as well as on a temporary exhibition at the GLOW Festival in Santa Monica entitled "The Space Between Us."
Arup is the creative force at the heart of many of the world's most prominent projects in the built environment and across industry. Its engineers and consultants deliver innovative projects across the world. Arup opened its first US office 25 years ago, and now employs 1,000 in the Americas. The firm was founded in 1946 with an enduring set of values that fosters a distinctive culture, intellectual independence and collaborative approach. The people at Arup are driven to find a better way to deliver better solutions for their clients. (www.arup.com)
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Jennifer Shelby, CPSM
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