Reconnecting Bostons Urban Corridor

A temporary floating sculpture above the Rose Kennedy Greenway spans the void where an elevated highway once split the downtown from its waterfront. The Big Dig enabled the space to be reclaimed as an urban park.
A temporary floating sculpture above the Rose Kennedy Greenway spans the void where an elevated highway once split the downtown from its waterfront. The Big Dig enabled the space to be reclaimed as an urban park. Photo: Melissa HenryPhoto: Melissa Henry

Arup served as the lead engineering designer for a half acre fiber net sculpture titled As if it Were Already Here designed by artist Janet Echelman of Studio Echelman. The sculpture was installed 365 feet above Bostons Rose Kennedy Greenway and spans up to 600 feet between three high-rise buildings.

Commissioned by the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, Echelmans sculpture for Boston is an original design inspired by the transformation of the citys waterfront following the Big Dig and creation of the mile-and-a-half long Greenway. It was unveiled on Sunday, May 3, 2015, and will remain in place through October 2015.

The sculpture is made by hand-splicing rope and knotting twine into an interconnected mesh of more than a half-million nodes. When any one of its elements moves, every other element is affected.

Arups lighting design using 44 individually programmed LED lights enabled the artists vision of the sculpture to be realized in the nighttime.
Photo: Melissa Henry

The artwork incorporates dynamic lighting elements, which reflect the changing effects of wind, Echelman said. Sensors around the site register fiber movement and digitally measure tension on the ropes, which is expressed as colored light projected onto the sculptures surface.

Arup worked closely with Studio Echelman, Autodesk, and Shawmut Design & Construction to realize the artists vision of reconnecting the city over the Greenway. Arups primary role was to create the geometric and structural design for the prestressed rope network that supports and forms an integral part of the sculpture. The firm has developed custom in-house software that implements an adaptive form-finding algorithm to optimize the geometry and structure of the sculpture. The form-finding is part of an overall digital workflow from concept through fabrication.

Autodesk has donated custom software to Studio Echelman to design monumental sculptures. This technology enables Echelman to simulate the effects of gravity, wind, and weather as well as to imagine, design, and create the experience of her work. The Greenway sculpture is the second project that Autodesk has collaborated on with Janet Echelman.

Janet Echelmans sculpture was installed 365 feet above Bostons Rose Kennedy Greenway and spans up to 600 feet between three high-rise buildings.
Photo: Benjamin Johnson/Shawmut Design and Construction

Autodesk developed a plug-in extension to Autodesk Maya that is used by Studio Echelman for exploring design concepts. This custom software provides a streamlined workflow for choosing various sizes, colors, and shapes of the artistic net. The software simulates the structure and shape of the design, allowing the studio to explore many different design options. The resulting designs can be reviewed interactively and in high-resolution imagery. Once a design is selected, the data required for structural analysis and fabrication is automatically generated.

We have worked with many artists over the years, including Janet. Every project is unique and has its own evolutionary process, said Patrick McCafferty, P.E., LEED AP, associate principal in Arups Boston office. For this piece, the engineering and physical constraints of the site directly influenced the sculptures overall form. Our first task was to identify buildings with sufficient reserve capacity to resist the many tens of thousands of pounds of force the sculpture will exert in this particularly windy urban corridor of Boston. The building capacities and their geometric constraints directly influenced the form, density, and overall composition of the piece. As such, the sculpture can be viewed as the physical manifestation of the potential energy embodied within the Greenway itself. The result is stunning.

Arups lighting design solution enabled the artists vision of the sculpture to be realized in the nighttime environment through careful coordination of lighting equipment that blends seamlessly within the urban fabric. Bringing the piece to life at night through the use of light was always a priority for this project, and creating a unique experience on the Greenway has been the result.

Designing the lighting to not only illuminate such a large piece, but also work with the existing Boston infrastructure was a huge challenge, said Jake Wayne, P.E., LEED AP, senior lighting designer for Arup. The result, however, is a brilliant realization of Janets vision for her art in the nighttime urban environment.

Construction management firm Shawmut Design and Construction, Boston, is the general contractor for the Greenways Echelman sculpture, overseeing preconstruction, installation, and de-installation. The Shawmut team provided preconstruction advisement to ensure constructability issues were integrated into the design and fabrication process.

The 2,000-pound sculpture includes more than 100 miles of polyester twine and more than 500,000 knots. The prestressed rope network is constructed of hand-spliced ropes braided from Honeywell Spectra fibers and are, pound-for-pound, eight times stronger than steel cable. It is illuminated by 44 individually programmed LED lights. The longest span measures 600 feet and the project plan area of the sculpture is almost half an acre.

Information provided by Arup (www.arup.com) and Autodesk (www.autodesk.com).

Posted in Uncategorized | October 3rd, 2015 by

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