Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mint Museum: Stanislay Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova

Occasionally, you're asked to be involved in a project that comes to you based on goodwill accumulated over years of good service. I had done work for the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC but had not been back there for years. Through mutual friends, Bonsai Inc., I was asked if I wanted to be involved in de-installing and then re-installing a large scale glass sculpture by the Czech artists Stanislay Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova. The Museum was relocating to a new building and this was among the last pieces to be moved. Because of the complexity of the project scope, they wanted someone who could troubleshoot problems and communicate practical answers, having me on board eased their worries. It was a commissioned piece made of 10 cast glass panels, each about a thousand pounds. There were two rows of five panels, the top five were bolted to an i-beam welded to structural steel in the ceiling and the bottom five were bolted to a steel plate on the floor. About 1/4" separated the two rows of shapes and both rows were in perfect plane from top to bottom and plumb side to side. Though difficult, de-installing the piece was the easier part. Confirming how to understand how each glass panel related to each other to make the whole was the question and then transferring this data to the new site, on the third floor of the new building, the challenge. Where it was to be installed, construction crews had already set the i-beam in the ceiling and a steel plate was epoxied to the floor. However, only the holes in the above i-beam were drilled. The construction crew did not want to be responsible for the bolt holes in the floor plate, since we were working inside 1/16" tolerance. That was the Art part. I had fretted how to locate the holes, and since it was my responsibility, thought about lasers, fancy tools and other esoteric measurement schemes. We had 24 holes to drill and each drilled hole had to be tapped square to the floor. They all had to be perfect. In the end I decided simple was best. I had a machinist make an aluminum plug the same diameter as the bolt hole in the ceiling i-beam with a 1/8" hole drilled dead center in the plug. A string line threaded through the hole and a plumb bob was lowered to the plate on the floor. It was about 14' between floor and ceiling. We all watched the plumb bob spin until it finished it's dance pointing to exact dead center. It was perfect.