We provide a unique array of services including Design optimization, Engineering Coordination, and Project Management for our clients in large scale civic art with project budgets ranging from $30,000 to $2M and up, in locations worldwide. We typically work for the artist directly, but at times provide services directly to a commissioning agency, gallery, or private client. As experts in digital fabrication and component based design, we can often suggest solutions using these techniques that enhance the concept while saving money. We are sensitive to conceptual and curatorial issues, and are well versed in materials, engineering and code compliance, and technologies that are often central to the commission. We enjoy the challenges and uniqueness of each civic art project, acting as a translator and broker between the broad array of professions involved; creating value through attention to detail, diligence, and clear communication.
Tumbling House is a privately commissioned architectural folly by The Art Guys that doubles as a dynamic playscape for children big and small. An assemblage of completely customized components forms a house that is seemingly frozen in a series of Muybridge-like stop-motion instances as it wildly tumbles through space. The implied trail of the tumbling house is solidified into a pathway that also doubles as its support structure in the form of a primary 50' arch and secondary rolled pipe forms. The suggested trajectory of the bounce is translated into "ghost houses" that float in the air and embed in the ground with integral playground features - a slide, swings, and a climbing ladder. The uppermost house serves as a fully finished and enclosed "tree house" filled with whimsically surreal interior accoutrements provided by the artists. Metalab provided design development and optimization, 3D modeling, architectural documentation and project management for the artists from conception through completion. A digitally fabricated "kit of parts" were made into subassemblies that bolted together and minimized work on site.
The Huddle is a sculpture by New York based artist Matthew Geller for the front entrance to the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. This work of art features a public swing with handicap accessible seating suspended from a stainless steel canopy supported by three tactile columns. The surfaces of this piece are as engaging to the touch as they are to the eye. Metalab provided architectural design, digital fabrication and construction management on the project. The installation phase was completed in an hour.
Designed by New York based installation artist Chris Doyle, is a Percent for Art project located at the City of Austin at the new Public Safety Training Facility. This permanent installation was designed as a modest, open-air shelter and includes a roof mural that was made through CNC cut perforations to the corrugated stainless steel canopy. The pavilion and canopy were fabricated and pre-assembled in Houston and shipped to Austin as a kit-of-parts that require minimal site work.
Frederick Kiesler's Grotto for Meditation was originally comissioned by Jane Blaffer-Owen to be built in New Harmony, Indiana in 1963. The project was unrealized but has been reimagined as a digitally fabricated open air structure designed by students and faculty at the University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture using the new facilities at the Burdette Keeland Design Exploration Center. The University commissioned the Grotto to be designed for a new garden next to the Architecture building. The New Harmony Grotto aspires to be a campus landmark and a tribute to the patronage of Mrs. Owen and to the spirit of New Harmony. Collaboration with the UHCoA Digital Fabrication seminar students and Ben Nicholson, Visiting Critic
Our first collaboration with Jim Isermann installed in a courtyard at Ohio State University. We worked with Deep South Plastics, the same roto-mold fabricator we worked with on PV-POD. Jim's work is a fascinating combination of repeating geometric patterns, intense use of color and inventive architectural products.
Memory Cloud is the winning commission awarded to RE:Site (Norman Lee and Shane Allbritton) and METALAB by Texas A&M University for the new Memorial Student Center 12th Man Hall. Through a competition, the team demonstrated the ability to harness the potential of programmable LEDs, remote sensing, parametric design and digital fabrication to create an open ended narrative of the story of the University through animated silhouette imagery of past and real-time present student life on the campus. Texas A&M, a place of deep traditions that are played out on the football field at every game and in the everyday lives of students will create the imagery that will be played within the layers of the LED matrix at different speeds and durations. Parametric design created a unique cloud form that creates a landscape within the student center where monumental and ephemeral figures will pass through the space, blurring the distinction between past and present.
Two pioneers in human space flight, Yuri A. Gagarin and John Glenn are memorialized in contrasting media, a perforated stainless steel halftone image of John Glenn rendered as a contrast to a bronze of Yuri Gagarin donated by the Russian consulate. Metalab, working with Architect Ron Witte and Artist Randy Twaddle developed a custom algorithm to render John Glenn’s iconic image aboard the Mercury Capsule by perforating the shape of the capsule in a staggered pattern with varying sizes to render light and dark tones. The image panels are delicately suspended on thin standoff rods connected to a powder coated steel frame. Each figure stands on a shallow plinth edged in cor-ten steel, in an historic dialogue on the site of NASA’s first manned space flight headquarters, now occupied as the Houston Parks and Recreation headquarters.
Jaume Plensa’s TOLERANCE is a set of seven stainless steel human figures, each kneeling atop a boulder placed along the banks of Buffalo Bayou just outside of downtown Houston. All of the figures are taken from the same model, but each is composed of a distinct set of characters taken from a mix of languages including Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Greek, Latin, Hindi and Cyrillic. At night, the figures glow from within, creating a “constellation of beacons.” Metalab, working on behalf of the Houston Arts Alliance, provided construction management and installation services, and fabrication of a custom foundation system that allowed for rapid placement of the sculptures on site.
Open Channel Flow, a sculpture by New York based artist Matthew Geller, was commissioned by the Houston Arts Alliance as a permanent piece for the City of Houston Art Collection. Turnkey architecture, custom component fabrication, and construction management helped to realize this commission as a kit-of-parts that was assembled on site efficiently with the quality and finish of a manufactured product. Located next to Buffalo Bayou, the structure emerges from the landscape of a Houston Water Production Station to a height of 60'. Inspired by the unexpected protrusions of plumbing infrastructure in urban lots, the colossal pipe works features a public outdoor shower activated by a hand pump. A nearby skate park ensures that a steady flow of skaters and passersby will indulge in a refreshing spritz on Houston's infamously humid afternoons.
Cloud Code in the City of Houston Permitting Center is a conduit and real-time display of the occupancy, activity, and air quality in the building. The interaction of occupants within the physical space of the public areas is measured and displayed as civic art. A rear-projection display of animated graphics is generated by a network of meshed micro-sensors housed in custom fabricated enclosures. The occupants feed data to processing software that Metalab coded for the project. The activity creates a cloud-like indication of indoor air quality in the first floor public area of the building. In addition to air quality and occupancy, other qualitative aspects of the building such as movement and ambient sound are graphically represented in an abstracted floor plan.
In June of 2010 our non-for-profit organization TEX-FAB commissioned the REPEAT competition with the explicit intent of promoting the role of digital fabrication and parametric design within the Texas region. A total 95 teams of 1-4 designers from 19 states in the US, 18 countries and 5 continents participated. The competition brief asked the entrants to look first at the connection and then, through repetition to define the whole. The jury of experts on parametric design and digital fabrication from around the world conferred online and selected Minimal Complexity for the aesthetic beauty, technical superiority and elegance of detailing embodying the principals of the competition brief to the highest degree. The final structure was engineered, fabricated and installed by TEX-FAB collaboratively with Vlad Tenu the designer. The built iteration of Minimal Complexity and all the competition proposals in the form of the REPEAT Exhibition were revealed at an event in Houston, Texas that featured juror presentations, workshops and conversations on the design strategies and techniques employed in the design and making of the winning project.
Woozy Blossom (Platanus nebulosus) with Matthew Geller, Artist commissioned for Katonah Museum of Art. This sixteen-foot-high perforated steel tree produces a continuous fog, inviting visitors to be engulfed in its mist and revel in its cool, moist air. The fog is in a constant state of flux, sensitive to the slightest changes in wind, temperature, and humidity. Simultaneously eerie, unexpected, and playful, Woozy Blossom transforms the Katonah Museum of Art Sculpture Garden into an ever-changing, otherworldly environment. Metalab contributed digital parametric design and fabrication. The project was built as a kit of parts that can be disassembled, packaged and shipped to its location. Installation took one day.
Radiant Fountains, a set of three sculptures by artist Desnnis Oppenheim, was commissioned by the Houston Arts Alliance for the Houston Airport System. The work serves as an icon visible to motorists upon leaving Bush Intercontinental Airport and entering the City of Houston. Each 60' tower is wrapped in animated LEDs that begin as droplets plunging downward and then radiate out in a seemingly endless upward flow of light and spectacle.
This proposal with RE:site for the sculpture to the fill the pediment of the St. Paul’s Cathedral in Boston originally built in 1820 but never completed is based on a set of defined parameters that convey a message repeated in a multitude of languages on undulated substrate of typeface blocks. An algorithmic process is utilized to generate the complex forms that communicate the relationship between the variegated surface subtly depicting St. Andrew’s cross, the typography, the physical limitations of the existing pediment, and the constraints of the pre-cast concrete molds. This design strategy allows us to explore various design iterations while maintaining the highest degree of accuracy available with contemporary rapid prototyping techniques. The new pediment is fabricated out of a pre-cast concrete system with the highest degree of accurate translation of the digital models for legibility of the text. A CNC process is utilized to sculpt the block and letter forms to make the molds for casting the surface. While the appearance of the pattern is of a multitude of undulating typeface blocks, the system will be composed of ten large uniquely formed panels for optimum pre-fabricated quality control and efficient installation on site.
The project is a public landscape installed at Horizon Wind Energy’s Twin Groves Wind Farm in central Illinois. The concept of inscribing the outline of a 70 meter wind tower at full scale in the ground was conceived by ttweak, a strategic communications and design company. Metalab digitally modeled and fabricated the components as a kit-of-parts made in Houston and transported to remote sites via a modified shipping container and assembled with minimal site work and labor. The Lookout has been repeated at Horizon’s other wind farms in Minnesota, Texas and New York. With accuracy and efficiency the wind tower’s scale and form is realized as a concrete surface with stainless steel edging that will last as long as the life span of the wind farm. The Lookout serves as an information center and viewing platform for Horizon to explain wind energy to the public. Its construction process is uniquely parallel to the manufacturing and assembly of the wind tower that it represents.