We were contacted a few months ago by the owner of Embassy Suites LAX to produce a unique set of glass sculptures. Normally, there wouldn’t be a lot to think about, but they wanted it somewhat earthquake-proof. We had never had any experience with earthquakes, but we had a lot of experience with hurricanes.
Hurricane Sandy, in October of 2012.
Superstorm Sandy did over 68 billion in damages to our area. The funny thing was, at the time we had about 20 glass sculptures hanging outside our studio a couple of miles away. Virtually nothing broke, and I always wondered why. For the past ten years or so, we had been putting glass chandeliers and sculptures outside, and hardly anything ever breaks. They’ve survived many winters and many storms.
I’ve concluded the reason why is the way the glass is attached to the tree, metal frame or armature by a single metal clip which allows the individual pieces to move somewhat freely. There can be as many as 500 pieces of glass. This was the key to selling the sculptures to the people at LAX Embassy Suites. All I had to do was focus on anchoring the steel poles to the concrete floor. We achieved this with a central 3″ diameter column and added three diagonal legs, which gave the structure a 4′ diameter footprint, which is incredibly stable. This was anchored with 1″ x 6″ bolts. The only problem was that the floor was laced with compression rods. These are used to keep the concrete slab in compression and keep it from cracking. So, we had someone come in to do an ultrasound in the areas we would be working in. The rest was business as usual.
Starting With a Photo
We were sent a couple of photos and given the three locations where they wanted to see the sculptures. The below photos show the original photo, the proposed rendering and the mock-up.
After final approval
After the final approval of the glass plates and color balance, we began the production of the full job, which took about 1 month. Once all the glass pieces had been made and finished we began the process of packaging and building the three crates (48″ x 48″ x 72″). Sometimes I think packing and crating everything takes longer than making the glass, or at least it feels that way. To ship a large project from the East to the West Coast can be a big deal. If anything arrives broken, it can cause big problems. I am absolutely responsible for everything. It doesn’t matter if you have insurance or not, the client doesn’t want to hear the job can’t be completed and ready for the building’s opening in ten days, for instance.
As we were finishing the glass we started designing and engineering the poles and armatures from which the glass hangs. This step is every bit as important as the glass production. The finished height for two of the pieces was 28 feet and the third was about 35 feet, which means we have to make the structures solid enough to permanently hold everything together, but it has to be made modular, so we can ship it. When it’s put together onsite (since it’s this beautiful glass) everyone wants to see. The mounting structure needs to be nearly invisible, though. This balance of function and minimization of the hanging structure is my favorite part of the job because solving those problems are generally the most challenging, and rewarding.
If I had to pick another favorite aspect of my work it would be the collaboration between the client and myself. I always feel a special honor when we are chosen to do a project, because there has to be a trust. The client is going to get what they paid for. My job is to see that they get that, and much more. If there is sleep to be lost, I want it to be mine and not my client’s.
After everything arrived in California we put ourselves on a plane and went to L.A.. This trip was a little extra special, because, in addition to Scott Staats and Kelly Moyers, (without whom nothing would ever get done,) I had the honor of having my beautiful daughter Caroline with us. She proved to be a huge help and I was grateful to have gotten to spend the extra time with her.
In The End
In the end, everything went off without a hitch. Everyone was pleased with our work and because of great communication between the owners, their staff, and us, everything went just as expected. Someday, I’ll write a post about the communication exchange on one of our larger jobs to show the effort involved in the production of a job of this type and size.