Posts tagged with "Houston":
Re:site and Metalab's site-specific installation for Texas A&M's 12th Man Memorial Student Center uses 4,000 networked LEDs to create an animated display that speaks to tradition as well as to the future.The Corps of Cadets. Kyle Field. The 12th Man. Reveille. Texas A&M has more than a few strong traditions, most of which are centered around and given expression by the university’s football games and its alumni’s illustrious history of military service. At the same time, the school is well known for its robust and forward thinking science and engineering departments. Both of these characteristics factored into the conception for a permanent sculpture to inhabit A&M’s new Memorial Student Center (MSC). Created by art collaborative RE:site and design and fabrication studio Metalab (both located in Houston) the sculpture, titled Memory Cloud, is a chandelier of 4,000 white LEDs that are animated by two distinct feeds: one derived from archival footage of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, the other from live infrared cameras that monitor people passing through the center’s atrium. “To interpret tradition visually we thought of moving patterns of people,” said Norman Lee of RE:site. “A&M has a strong marching band. If you remove the specifics of what the band is wearing and focus on the movements, they’re the same from 1900 to now. Once you reduce the figures from archival footage to silhouette patterns, you can’t identify the different points in time. Time and space collapse and bring together the school’s tradition in visual terms.” The archival silhouettes interlace with silhouettes from the live feed, generating ambiguous patterns that take time to sink in. “We envisioned incoming freshmen seeing the shadows and after three or four weeks realizing what the figures are in a powerful ‘ah ha’ moment,” said Lee. Memory Cloud is composed of a 14-foot-wide by 21-foot-long diagrid 1/8-inch powder-coated carbon steel frame and 220 LED arrays housed in clear acrylic tubes that hang in 21 rows from 16 gauge aluminum raceways carrying the data cables and electronics. The arrays are between 9 and 13 feet long and end in acrylic disks that are angled to give a billowing profile to the bottom of the sculpture. The disks also act as luminaires, picking up and diffusing the light of the lowest LED node via fiber optic effect. The piece is suspended from one point on the ceiling with a cable rigging. A winch can raise or lower it for maintenance. RE:site and Metalab used Rhino and Grasshopper to model Memory Cloud’s geometry as well as to develop quantitative data sets for the lighting purchase orders and assembly inventories. The diagrid structure was developed by Houston-based structural engineering firm Insight Structures using finite element analysis (FEA) software that determined a varying depth of profile to deliver the necessary support within the weight requirement. “We had a weight limit of 3,000 pounds,” said Andrew Vrana of Metalab. “At first we wanted to use 3/16 aluminum, which is light weight, but it deformed too much under welding. So we went with carbon steel and by optimizing the profile wound up with a final weight of 2,400 pounds.” The team also used the Lunchbox plugin for Grasshopper, which was developed by Nathan Miller of CASE, which helped to create clean data structures that retained their organization as the geometry of the cloud was refined. To create and program the LED matrix, RE:site and Metalab worked with Digital Media Designs (DMD), which did the digital lighting display for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The company worked with a Chinese manufacturer to develop a custom LED product capable of meeting the sculpture’s size requirements while functioning within a broad range of daylight conditions. It also had to create a DMX control system that would take RE:site’s 2D silhouettes and replicate them in Memory Cloud’s 3D LED matrix, an unprecedented task from a software point of view. DMD worked with UK company Avolites Media to customize their AI software to this purpose. “With that software we were able to utilize a method called pixel mapping and find a way to interpret RGB values into black and white and also to transpose that into XYZ coordinates, creating a 3D virtual cloud,” said Scott Chmielewski of DMD. Memory Cloud was prototyped and fabricated in Houston, then trucked the 100 miles to College Station. The on-site assembly and erection process took 10 days to complete. Gig ‘em Aggies!
Topocast and Randy Twaddle used Rhino to produce a 3D version of a 2D pattern. The 3D model became a 3D print, which was used as a prototype for casting 65 sculptural tiles.The entrance portal of Mirabeau B, a 14-unit residential complex in Houston’s Hyde Park neighborhood, is home to a 7-foot-high, 25-foot-long white wall of deeply textural tiles. Each tile is 20 inches square and features on its surface a three dimensional pattern that resembles nothing so much as the carapace of a Sci-Fi race of crab creatures. In fact, the pattern was derived from a photograph of a power transformer and its tangle of intersecting wires atop an electric light pole. It was worked into its current condition through a collaboration between print and textile artist Randy Twaddle and Dallas-based design and fabrication studio Topocast. Twaddle had used this image to generate several of his designs for wall coverings and rugs and the like. In this instance, he manipulated the image until arriving at a pattern that could be repeated and assembled modularly in a system of tiles. Twaddle delivered the 2D pattern to Topocast, which began to develop a workable 3D version. “Most of the 3D was done in Rhino,” said Topocast founder Brad Bell. “We also used the Rhino plugin T-Splines to create the intricate curvature and geometries.” Topocast created a series of surfaces from the 2D image that could be extruded or manipulated to create the expressive curvature of the 3D tile. The fabricator then went through a process of prototyping with CNC milling machines and 3D printers. It also experimented with a variety of materials, including concretes, resins, and woods. In the end, the team decided on hydro-stone, one of the strongest of all gypsum cements. Topocast created the final prototype from a nine-part 3D print made directly from the Rhino files then assembled to appear as a single, seamless tile. This prototype became the cast for a series of silicone molds. “The reason we went with silicone rather than a urethane mold is that, while silicone is less durable than urethane, it does provide a greater range of material options,” said Bell. “Certain resins have a chemical reaction with urethane.” Topocast cast 65 of the tiles at its shop in Dallas. Each tile weighs 40 pounds and has a surface depth that varies from 2 ¾ inches to 5 ¾ inches. The fabricator prepared an A cast and a B cast, each with identical surfaces, but differently spaced bolts imbedded in the back. This variation allowed for exactly calibrated spacing on an off-the-shelf Unistrut mounting rack. The team attached 60 of the tiles to the Unistrut mounts in 15 separate columns, each four tiles high. The columns were then shipped to Houston and bolted onto the wall of Mirabeau B’s entrance portal. Twaddle and Topocast are currently working on refining the tile to make it viable as a commercial product. “We’re working on how to lighten the tile, how to make it smaller, and we’ve done some demonstrations with LED lighting that projects different colors across the surface,” said Bell.