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Art, Recent News

Art and Engineering: An Inspired Collaboration

By Carl Fosholt · October 6, 2022

In the River District neighborhood of Sacramento, a movement to reimagine the 12th Street corridor with public art is underway. Among the projects in the metamorphosis is Uplift, a pair of weathering steel plate sculptures located at the corner of North 12th Street and Richards Boulevard, framing the gateway into the neighborhood. Created by artist Vicki Scuri, Uplift evokes the spreading of wings to symbolize renewal and spirit for the community. Envisioning a 34-foot-tall sculpture with heavily perforated 7-foot wingspans, the design presented unique engineering and fabrication challenges. Vicki Scuri partnered with JunoWorks and CRAFT to achieve her vision.

Photo Courtesy of Vicki Scuri SiteWorks

Vicki’s team utilized Rhino 3D modeling software to develop the form, scale, and perforation patterning of the sculptures, CRAFT performed the computational analysis and engineering design in the artist’s Rhino model via Grasshopper scripting and plug-ins, and JunoWorks produced the steel plate cut files and fabrication details using the same Rhino file. With all members working in the same software and native file, our team was able to collaborate rapidly and effectively to evolve the design and resolve challenges together.

Photo Courtesy of Vicki Scuri SiteWorks

Apparent lightness was a critical aesthetic expression of the piece and a significant challenge for the engineering design. The wings are intended to appear as though they are capable of “fluttering” but must be stiff enough to safely resist wind and earthquake forces. The perforation density and pattern were found to reduce the wing stiffness below acceptable performance levels. Thus, to preserve an airy appearance, CRAFT generated force flow studies to understand where and how load travels through the steel plates. Regions of concentrated force flow were identified by computational analysis and used to locate strategic stiffening components for the wings.

Force Flow Study of Wing Design

Several options were proposed and studied by the full team. Some of the options were found to be less effective for increasing stiffness, some were not practical to fabricate, and some were found visually obtrusive. Our team quickly identified the most constructible solution that provided the stiffness needed without compromising the visual aesthetic of the piece.

Photo Courtesy of Vicki Scuri Siteworks

In conducting detailed analyses, CRAFT strives to not only understand the holistic behavior of the sculpture, but also the contribution of its individual components. By evaluating the true perforated pattern of each plate, we were able to engineer the structure accurately to the artistic form without unnecessary alterations to the design. The combined global and component-based approach resulted in an ambitious expression that ensures performance and structural integrity. Each component interaction was also designed with the fabrication strategy in mind to allow for efficient engineering of the connections between plate elements.

Fabrication Progress at JunoWorks Facility

Traditional engineering approaches might render art designs too conservative or struggle to coordinate with the fabrication requirements. By using sophisticated software tools and facilitating close collaboration with our design partners, it is possible to achieve the true artist intent, the engineering requirements, and fabrication demands. CRAFT provides a uniquely multidisciplinary approach to supporting art and bringing inspiring sculptures to life.

Photo Courtesy of Vicki Scuri SiteWorks

Together with our collaborators Vicki Scuri SiteWorks, JunoWorks, and the City of Sacramento, we welcome the addition of Uplift to the Sacramento skyline!

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