Thursday, October 23, 2014

Measure twice, (three times, four times,) cut once: Sculpture size decisions

Measuring tape
Measuring tape - photo by Sarahluv

The sculptures in my commission for the Electra C. Doren library will be integrated into the fence of the new reading terrace. The fence will surround the terrace which will have raised landscaping and plantings, a sitting wall, and a view from inside the library through large new windows.

The terrace wasn't built at the time of my sculpture proposal. Even the architectural drawings for the terrace were not in their final state. Yet I had to propose a size for the sculpture panels.

I was given two sets of rendering/drawings for the fence that differed in the length and position of the fence, and different post-to-post distances. All these factors would make a big difference in the size of the panels I would propose. At the time I didn't know if there could be other dependent factors I wasn't aware of.

Knowing that my proposal was due before the decisions would be made to finalize the architectural design I had to either propose two different designs, one for each rendering of the terrace fence, or choose one and design for that proposing that it could be adapted if the decision went a different way.

Since the time from the RFP announcement date to the proposal submission date was extremely short for this first of the ReImagining Works RFPs, I decided to go with one proposal and suggest adjustments for changes to the design. It saved me time by not doing double designs but still showed that my proposal was adaptive and not dependent on just the fence design I selected.

I chose the fence design that did not have any sloping fence (going down a ramp). To help me with the size decision I did sketches of the terrace based on the architectural elevation illustration and put rough images of what my sculptures would look like at various sizes.  In some sketches I didn't use the whole post-to-post distance but left some of the fence railing space on either side of the sculpture. The balance of sculptural space and fence space seemed "right".

I proposed that each sculptural piece will be approximately two and a half feet high, and approximately four feet wide. The size of panels was approximate, based on the architectural drawings and I planned to adjust them as needed.

After I got the commission the fence plans kept changing. Even after one of the two sets of renderings became the plan of record there were more changes. The fence plan of record had 20 equal sized post-to-post sections of fence. I chose 8 of these positions for my sculptures. Then there was value engineering (See my post "Numbers, reuse, and value engineering") and the fence sections were redesigned and wound up not being equal. In this latest design there were only 10 potential equal sized post-to-post sections that were possible for my sculptures. I eliminated two of these because they were abutting each other in a corner. I eliminated two more because they were right next to other potential sections because I wanted the sculptures spaced out. That left 6 panels distributed around the terrace. Doing site specific public art requires project management of decisions like this and calling out the dependencies of the artwork on the rest of the architectural, construction, and fabrication decisions. 

Even with this change in the fence I was told I wouldn't really know the final size available to me until there were final shop drawings and field measurements agreed upon by architects, fence installers, and other stakeholders. This  meant I wouldn't know the size I had to work with until the wall was built. I collaborated with all these parties to uncover dependencies before I start designing my sculptures. I don't want to design something for one size only to find out that it changes and forces me to redesign. I want to work all this out before I start designing the final pieces. If I don't, then I could be doing a lot of work only to be surprised later and have to redo it. I'd rather invest the time up front. 

For example I got a version of the shop drawings that I was told were final. Then I had physical mock-ups made. When I compared the mock-ups to the shop drawing I noticed they were different by almost 3 inches in width. The mock-ups used an attachment method which preserved the open space on either side that I liked. The drawings had the sculpture attached directly to the posts with no space and a different connector method. If I had done my final artwork based on the shop drawings without the mock-up, I would be doing the final artwork over. 

The fence fabricator and I took the outside dimensions from the original shop drawing. We then calculated the space on the mock-up taken from the real connectors and mounting methods. We left the open space on either side and calculated the available space. Then we got everyone else to agree that this was the final size for all the sculptures.  If further dependencies show up then the fabricators, assemblers, and installers will adjust their work to that size and make it work. 

No comments:

Post a Comment