Arup provided structural engineering and lighting design services for Studio Echelman’s latest piece — a multi-layered net sculpture for the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC. Echelman’s design corresponds to a map of the energy released across the Pacific Ocean during the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The event was so powerful it shifted the earth on its axis and shortened the day, 11 March 2011, by 1.8 millionths of a second, lending the sculpture its title.
Our structural engineering services transformed Janet Echelman’s artistic vision into a reality. The formfinding and patterning of the rope structure created a tensioned shape that reflects the contours of the maximum wave amplitudes of the tsunami. The two main structural components of the work include the post-tensioned net which spans between the anchorage points and supports the soft sculptural net which is suspended from the structural net and defines the volume of the sculpture.
We also provided lighting consulting services for the dynamic sculpture. Cutting edge 7 colour chip LED light fixtures allow for fine-tuned and nuanced colour control of the sculptural netting. We also developed audio and sculptural movement through a series of highly programmable fan movements, representing events along the tsunami’s timeline.
All of the dynamic programming of the piece was accomplished through an Arup designed digital show control system. The tsunami sequence runs for 9 minutes and 15 seconds, or 9.15, which was symbolic of the day the final nuclear reactor in Japan shut down.