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Artist rendering of the towers of the Front Yard

Artist rendering of the towers of the Front Yard

The Front Yard at the Center to Turn On Forever on Friday, October 18

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The design of the projection towers for the Front Yard Project at the Burchfield Penney Art Center has summoned a unique experimental solution undertaken by a technology team at Rigidized Metals Corporation of 658 Ohio St, Buffalo. Led by Rick Smith, president of Rigidized, and Kevin Fuller, senior project manager, the team is working on the edge of technology and art that has never been done before. Rigidized Metals is a major donor and collaborator in The Front Yard Project.

The three 26 x 6 foot Front Yard towers —holding projectors, speakers and LED lights— will be clad by 14 perforated stainless steel panels. The perforations vary in diameter by a factor of 5 - from 3/i6 of an inch to nearly an inch, and there are 40,000 perforations for each of the three towers – or a total of 120,000 perforations in the installation. When illuminated from within, the small holes in the stainless steel will compose images created by Charles Burchfield, whose collections the Center holds. The effect is similar to a reading of the dot patterns in a lithographic print, or the pixels in a computer image which aggregate to compose an image.

From the beginning, this innovative project has been an exercise in creative design, engineering and manufacturing. Thus, we will overshoot our original completion estimate by five weeks, now scheduling launch on October 18.

The subtle angles and volumes of the perforations have precluded using traditional stamping techniques, the team realized. Laser cuts are now required, and the precise programming and process has been slow, since the laser cuts produce elevated temperatures which could affect the quality of the steel panels. Thus, each panel requires nearly a full workday for completion and a complex setup, lining up the computer rendered drawing plans for the perforations with the laser technology.

Each panel is nearly 75 percent perforations. Early test models of the towers show their illumination as sculptural jewel boxes, revealing an uncanny detail, suggestive of the brush strokes in the original Burchfield painting. The project was designed by Brad Wales, assistant professor, UB’s School of Architecture and Planning, and Brian Milbrand, an artist at SUNY Buffalo State Communication Department. The tower design was by Isabella Brito, an undergraduate student in the School of Architecture, under the direction of Prof Wales.