Louis XIV Comes to 1649

Glass conducts light more efficiently than any other material. This efficiency is why glass holds so much dynamic potential for sculpture; by constantly changing the sculpture with the passage of natural light throughout the day. And this is why we never have to lift a finger to help the installations look good most of the time. The sculptures naturally develop an opalescent luster in sunlight, sympathetically reflecting the colors that surround them.

But once the sun goes down, the enterprise is much more difficult. Instead of a wealth of diffuse light with a broad spectrum of color [sunlight], artificial light is emitted by a point source of a single color. The more recent “flexible” sculptures we’ve made express this monotone with each tube focusing the point source into a sharp ring and the collection of rings appearing as a linear highlight across their surface.

So when commissioned last year to do a dining room installation in Singapore, we figured the jig was up. The sculptures were the least spectacular at night and that was the time that most people would see it. We had been trying to finesse this problem for years and our attempts at a solution were both too straight-forward and wrong-minded. With an attendant sense of desperation, we kept trying to place the lights more deftly as if the solution were just out of reach and simply a matter of additional effort and insight. Exasperated and half-joking, we conjectured that the only way out was some sort of “lighting Jujutsu,” which emphasized the objectionable highlights rather than trying to obscure them. Of course, this turned out to be the solution. Admittedly this was not the consequence of an inspired evolution. It would be more fairly described as enlightenment by way of grasping at straws.

Assuming the band of linear highlights as a starting point, we concentrated on what produces this effect: a point of light becomes a radial line or ring perpendicular to the length of each tube.

When the number of tubes is increased the single point of light becomes a radial line or ring perpendicular to the length of each and every tube. So in an array of parallel tubes, one light becomes multiple virtual lights.

A single light source on a single plane of glass tubes.

4

If a second array of parallel tubes is then placed in front of, and perpendicular to the first, each instance of a virtual secondary light is produced along the length of the additional tubes (at a spacing equal to the diameter of each tube).

5

This produces multiple virtual lights and, as in a house of mirrors, it is nearly impossible to identify the original point source. The objectionable light is now lost in a uniform sea of twinkling lights and we have effectively reproduced the medieval conceit of the crystal chandelier, whereby precious candles were multiplied in the various facets of each crystal.

Chatsworth Light Tests_02

Two layers of glass.

Chatsworth_02

The finished sculpture at a private residence in Singapore. Photo credit: Michael Weber

Chatsworth_01

The finished sculpture at a private residence in Singapore. Photo credit: Michael Weber

Posted in Chatsworth, Installation, Residential | Leave a comment

We Refuse To Be A Statistic

Emily here with a wee trifle of life at 1649 Valencia St….
Metropolis Magazine recently posted an article about the meandering lunch table at Snøhetta’s office in New York. They said, “Fewer than 20 percent of American office workers take a lunch break, partly because the average workplace doesn’t have a lunch room.” When I read that I thought a few things. Among them:

  1. Who says you have to have a lunch room to take a lunch break?
  2. Is taking said break a by product of eschewing the life of the office worker and forging a path in the arts?
  3. Is it about the space or is it about the people?

#1 – Every day we confront the impossible—from figuring out how to make Nik’s designs to how to install 3 installations in 3 cities on 2 continents in 3 weeks*—so you could hardly expect that not having a lunch room would stop us from lunching.

#2 – Yay Art.

#3 – I’m the only one here today [3 installs, 3 cities, 2 continents], it’s 3:02pm and I haven’t eaten lunch. Asked and answered.

We’ve talked for years about building a lunch table but it always ends up being something that’s going to hinge or collapse or have some sort of hydraulic system. Or we talk about something off-the-shelf but can’t accept the defeat.

And at this point we’re comfortable hanging out in the parking lot in our rag-tag Weinsteinian fashion and shootin’ the s*%t over some grub. In fact, we prefer it.

* More on the recent craziness and impressive feats of the Weinstein team coming soon.

 

IMG_3484

Dining and knitting a l’asphalt.

IMG_3490

Hanging out with a sandwich and a forklift.

IMG_3505

Who wouldn’t want to share their lunchroom with an old pallet?

IMG_3487

If we don’t need a table, why would we need chairs?

Lunch Room / Work Room Hybrid

Lunch Room / Work Room Hybrid

 

Posted in People, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Weinstein and Warwick Take It On The Road

Every summer the Glass Art Society [GAS] holds their annual conference in a different US city. This year it was just a hop-skip-and a jump down the road from us in San Jose and the theme for the conference was “Glass, Art, and Technology.” This was a great fit for us and we were pleased they invited Nikolas to speak. His lecture was titled, “Engineering Art.”

In contrast to past lectures—which have been somewhat broader—this presentation focused a bit more pointedly on the challenges that can, and inevitably do, arise when working in glass at the scale we do. And how our toolbox has, and continues to evolve….

Here’s Nik to get things started:

“The design of my installations is driven by an interest in sculptural forms and how they relate to architectural space. Technology has nonetheless become a principal element in my work. I take what I see in my head and figure out how to make it rather than looking at the available tools and deciding what to make with them. Tools are things that I develop to solve problems rather than parameters that define what I think I can do. Of course, I can’t just make anything that I want to, without regard for real physical and logistical constraints. I do have a vague idea of what is possible and an attendant “gut feeling.” But I start the process of designing projects in an aspirational mode. The balance of my team’s time on projects is spent in a highly iterative and experimental search for solutions to building the original design.”

One item in the experimental and problem solving toolbox is the software that the studio uses to make Nikolas’s ideas a reality. Specifically a plug-in for Rhinoceros, which is the 3D CAD program we use. The plugin is called Grasshopper.

An example of the Grasshopper plugin. The sculpture at left and the “guts” of the software at right. Around the studio, this application is know as The Gapulator. It lets our team study the spacing between the tubes.

Rather than struggling to write a layman’s explanation of this software, here’s a post with Sam Prest and Dave Johnson discussing and describing the marvels of this technology with Nikolas. 

A new tool we’ll be working with shortly is a custom tube cutting machine en route from Germany. It will be hooked up to a recent arrival that is the “Accucut Gold Digital Linear Measurement and Positioning System.” Stayed tuned for the scoop on this in the coming weeks.

In addition to Nikolas’s lecture, GAS featured the studio in the summer issue of their quarterly publication. Glass Art Society News, Summer 2015

AND in conjunction with the presentation, Nikolas was invited to submit an article to the GAS  Journal. For those among you who can’t get enough of Nikolas Weinstein Studios, his full article is below:

Creating Problems
The design of my installations is driven by an interest in sculptural forms and how they relate to architectural space. Technology has nonetheless become a principal element in my work. I take what I see in my head and figure out how to make it rather than looking at the available tools and deciding what to make with them. Tools are things that I develop to solve problems rather than parameters that define what I think I can do. Of course, I can’t just make anything that I want to, without regard for real physical and logistical constraints. I do have a vague idea of what is possible and an attendant “gut feeling.” But I start the process of designing projects in an aspirational mode. The balance of my time on projects is spent in a highly iterative and experimental search for solutions to building the original design.

While this would seem to be a somewhat backward approach (why not design based on what you know you can build?), it ensures for me innovation in methodology and, consequently, an evolution in aesthetics. When I face problems with no clear roadmap, I experiment. Most of the time it doesn’t work. But one out of every ten times, I see something unexpected and compelling that sparks an idea. I end up building tools and machines with different functions than I originally intended. This forces my work to change, and it allows me to dream of possibilities that are different and more complex than I would have previously imagined.

My first big project came when I was 26. I was very green and had only made blown pieces no bigger than myself. The commission was wildly outsized for where I was in my career but it was one that you just don’t pass up, an installation for the main public space in a Frank O. Gehry building at the center of Berlin next to the Brandenburg Gates. I had no idea what I was doing and spent nearly five years flailing. It was grueling and filled with moments of extreme doubt and deep despair, but I would never trade it in.

The sculpture was comprised of 36 glass elements the size of small cars that flew through the public atrium of a bank headquarters in three groups. It was about a year into the project when I realized that the scale and complexity of the project was way beyond my ability. I had proposed a cellular matrix of glass tubes as the sculptural material. To build this, we ultimately arrived at a process that required laying individual tubes in parallel on a flat kiln floor and firing them to a temperature hot enough to weld them together, but cool enough to prevent them from collapsing. This yielded a final assembly with structural integrity and a high strength to weight ratio. Once the matrix was fused and annealed, it then had to be shaped over a large mold during a second kiln cycle.

When the project began, I hadn’t appreciated that the process would require two separate cycles nor that the fused tubes would be such a fragile assembly highly prone to failure during the second heating. Even if we had built two kilns instead of one and figured out how to protect the panels in their interim fragile state, the molds were a problem unto themselves. The panels were massive and each one uniquely shaped. I couldn’t even get my head around how to build and store 36 molds the size of cars!

In what was to be the first of many unforeseen and insurmountable-feeling problems, I sought refuge at home with pasta and wine. Lost in an inebriated reverie, I found myself recalling the coffee-table novelty pin molds of the 70s—small, perforated boards filled with pins. When you pushed your hand against one side, it would mold the impression on the reverse. It was a shot in the dark, but I sketched a concept for a kiln bed constructed in a similar manner. My team quickly made a small version to proof-test the idea before fabricating the final kiln, which arrived in a dedicated eighteen-wheeler.

The kiln had a motorized undercarriage that could be programmed and raised to introduce a stippled topography on the interior floor. This allowed us to collapse two kiln cycles into one: beginning with a flat floor and pins unraised, the tubes could be arranged and fused together; then the floor could be actuated to incrementally introduce a mold form at the same rate the glass was bending such that it was continuously supported in its fragile state. Additionally, it allowed us to dispense with inefficient and ungainly molds in favor of an infinitely programmable floor with no thermal mass.

Even though I hadn’t conceived of the kiln before I began the Berlin project, it became its primary tool. Now that I had a kiln with a dynamic and programmable bed, I started to come up with new sculptural shapes that leveraged this technology. When I felt that the kiln was no longer enabling ideas but limiting creativity, I started to hack my hack. To solve other problems that my newer designs introduced, I began drilling holes all over the kiln so that I could remotely pull the glass via cables that ran over weighted pulley systems on the kiln’s exterior.

It is only as I approach the completion of a project that I finally appreciate how to really build it. The majority of the project time is spent making mistakes and learning, and the actual fabrication of the work represents only a small fraction of the effort. The solution gives me new ideas. A completed project is an opportunity to see what has been made possible by the new technology. And so the aspirational cycle begins again, and I design new problems to solve.

Photo Credit: Michael Weber

Overview of installation in Hong Kong hotel lobby.

Photo Credit: Michael Weber

Overview of installation in Singapore hotel ballroom designed by Norman Foster

Photo Credit: Bruce Damonte

One of three pieces in a triptych installation in San Francisco.

Photo Credit: Katsunasa Tanaka

Overview of installation in public atrium of Berlin bank headquarters designed by Frank O. Gehry.

Photo Credit: Katsunasa Tanaka

Detail of glass panels from installation in public atrium of Berlin bank headquarters designed by Frank O. Gehry.

Photo Credit: Jeff Benroth

Proof of concept dynamic pin-molding bed from small test kiln.

Rolling out the motorized bed of the full-scale custom kiln.

Rolling out the motorized bed of the full-scale custom kiln.

Posted in CAD, Mechanics, People, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Signed, Sealed, & Delivered

Nikolas posted about this project in Hong Kong when it was being installed back in February. Now that we’ve got final photography I wanted to pop in quickly and share these images of the Artwork we did for Swire Properties’ Arezzo residential tower.

This piece is interesting in the way it integrates with the architecture. It literally peels off from the balcony like a second skin. As it departs it becomes more sculptural and independent—finishing in a technically intricate, three-dimensional knot.

The sculpture builds on Nikolas’ previous ribbon-like pieces, in which each tube had the same curve. In this iteration we introduced a variety of different profiles, which makes the glass more visually alive and allows the tight and complex curves.

Thanks to Michael Weber for the beautiful photos.

AREZZO_13

AREZZO_09

AREZZO_11

AREZZO_01v2-2

AREZZO_06v2

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Carl Gets a Toy

Chaos reigns here at the studio. It is so full of glass, scaffolding, and people that we are too embarrassed to reveal photos. While this level of action is invigorating, it appears highly unprofessional and the scene would not be described as battened down and ready for battle.

But despite the obstacles, Carl offered to give the new scissor lift a test drive down one of the few remaining “open spaces” left inside. Clearly, he has no idea what he is doing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Play It Again, Steve

Puttering about this afternoon, we came across this jewel in the video archive. Though previously posted, it’s worth a second pass. An ode to former colleague Steve Cipoletto, it summoned wistful tears of laughter because he was hilarious company and because he’s long gone. Mind you, Steve’s not dead, he just lives in Palm Springs.

And if you knew Steve, the locale is as perfect as it is absurd. This is a man who was known to regularly chase a tin of sardines with a shot of espresso each morning at the shop, stage-dive at Ramones shows, and regularly copy Old Masters’ etchings in the evenings. In one sense, he seemed too ragged and urban raw to end up in a resort town. Then again, legend has it that Palm Springs is peopled with many unlikely types, so I guess he fits right in. Either way, we really miss him.

This video was taken during an installation in Hong Kong. At the end, he quips that he’ll retire to Hollywood. He was prescient. A year later he bid farewell, we wept, and he strode into the desert to lounge by pools in the county next door.

Posted in Installation, People | Leave a comment

Panel Ascending

Coffee. Lots of coffee. And then more coffee.

We’re knee-deep in glass tubes, cable, and thousands upon thousands of tiny hardware bits that comprise each of fourteen giant glass “leaves.” They range in size from roughly 3.5 meters (12 feet) to 6 meters (19 feet) and collectively appear to float down and through a vast atrium space. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. We have miles of cable to go before we sleep and more coffee to drink.

Here’s a time-lapse video of Carl and Matt’s afternoon. Before buttoning things up, they were doing a little “check-your-head” mock-up to verify how the pieces would be installed. Check!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bon Voyage

While this transport may seem mundane, we’re clicking our heals over here. The strike at the Port of Oakland was averted, the clouds parted and a large shipping container was dumped in our parking lot!

Although we had nothing to do with any of this, we’re nonetheless grateful as we got rid of too many crates that were in too small a space with too much work going on. After waiting nearly six weeks, we got a call the night before and by sundown the next day, it was gone. Bon Voyage and we’ll see you in Singapore next month.

The dropoff was over before it began. Bill claims the guy did the whole maneuver in less than ten minutes and was a sight to behold!

The dropoff was over before it began. Bill claims the guy did the whole maneuver in less than ten minutes and was a sight to behold!

Bill "blocks" the crates against the inside of the container to arrest any shifting during transport.

Bill “blocks” the crates against the inside of the container to arrest any shifting during transport.

Matt affixes shock-absorbing "donuts" in a tight spot between crates.

Matt affixes shock-absorbing “donuts” in a tight spot between crates.

The faithful twins. One let's us know upon arrival if the contents were unduly shocked or tilted.

The faithful twins. One let’s us know upon arrival if the contents were unduly shocked and one if they were tilted.

Goodbye.

Goodbye.

Behold, Apolo! This is the vessel and one of those is ours. It's also incredible to note that each one of those containers is forty feet long.

Behold, Apollo! This is the vessel and one of those is ours. It’s also incredible to note that each one of those containers is forty feet long.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Up to Our Eyeballs in Crates

The sound of industry is eerily silent in our part of the world. The big boats and cranes that define the Port of Oakland are listless. And others up and down the West Coast are largely inactive due to a spate of work stoppages and contract negotiations. Container ships are stacking up in the harbor with no place to unload or fill up. It reminds me of the surreal spectacle of hundreds of enormous ships dead in the water off the coast of Singapore during the 2009 financial crisis. It’s not that bad, but this time it has hit home in a more personal and spatial way.

We have been trying to ship a completed sculpture to Singapore for over six weeks now. The correspondence with our shipping agent is nearly comical:

“Not sure what is going to happen.  ILWU/PMA announced a tentative agreement on Friday.  On that basis – the ILWU was hired for work on the weekend.  PMA had shut them out weekends and nights for the past two weeks.

On Sunday – the ILWU all took a break at the same time – prompting the terminals to fire all Union Labor.

The Union still has to vote on the contract.  If they accept – we should start seeing some improvement.  Not sure how quickly – but will keep you advised.  I suspect March 2 may be ambitious.  I’m beginning to think at least another week and maybe two.”

We have no real sense of when the crates might leave. They’re too big for planes and they could ship very soon. Or not. And so, we have six very large crates underfoot while we’re in the thick of building another project. Each morning, we perform an absurd ballet: we forklift crates into parking spaces outside or stack them here and then there and then move them back to their original location. It’s maddening. It derails our work and upsets our client’s plans. Grrrrr. And all the while, the unions bluster and management pretends at impassivity.

Stop parking your crate in my spot!

Stop parking your crate in my spot!

Oh, don't mind those two large boxes there. Or the two behind you. Or the one in the back. Oh, yeah. There's one outside as well.

Oh, don’t mind those two large boxes there. Or the two behind you. Or the one in the back. Oh, yeah. There’s one outside as well.

Sooner or later, we’ll still saddle-up and head across the waters to install this sculpture. We’ve become awfully fond of the piece and each day makes us a little more expectant. Let’s just hope this all breaks soon. Until then, here are some early model photos of what lies ahead:

View upon entering the room.

View upon entering the room.

Staring at the ceiling.

Staring at the ceiling.

View along the length.

View along the length.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Back in Play

Even though we’re up to our gills in work, it feels like ages since we’ve installed a project. So before disappearing into the wormhole again, we wanted to post a couple of photos of a project that we just completed for a new Hong Kong residential tower. It’s our second collaboration with Swire Properties, the developers with whom we worked on the Frank O. Gehry building. It was a quick affair with a team of six, powered by Japanese energy drinks, Vietnamese pho, and a dizzying array of chocolate treats.

Matt up in the boom futzing.

Matt up in the boom futzing.

A view of the sculpture as it peels away from the balcony's glass balustrade.

A view of the sculpture as it peels away from the balcony’s glass balustrade.

Jenn and Matt preparations for the next lift.

Jenn and Matt make preparations for the next lift.

Happy Kaitlin makes some final adjustments with a dental tool.

Happy Kaitlin makes some final adjustments with a dental tool.

Jennifer commands the "Airman scissor tank."

Jennifer commands the “Airman scissor tank.”

Posted in Installation, Residential, Uncategorized | Leave a comment