Parallel spent much of 2012 building another volumetric piece for Leo Villareal destined for 1133 6th Avenue in Manhattan. The piece was commissioned by the building’s owners to coincide with a significant lobby renovation. At 86,400 LEDs, the piece was the artist’s largest by LED count when unveiled in January 2013.
The sculpture features 900 custom, mirrored stainless LED fixtures hanging in an 8 inch grid that spans 60 ft across the lobby. The challenges presented were numerous. We needed to design a canopy that could support the significant weight of the fixtures and house all the necessary electronics while disappearing above the sculpture. Furthermore, because of the density of the fixtures, they required a hanging method that would allow one person to reach 3-ft into the sculpture and disconnect a fixture one-handed.
For the canopy, we settled on a railroad-like structure made of struts and rails. The struts are laser-cut steel evenly spaced down the structure, with structural steel tubing as the rails. The electrical enclosures were then easily mounted to the tubing face and wires routed down into the strut and out to the individual fixtures.
Parallel developed the new LED fixture along with Zach Eveland and the artist’s studio. There are no visible fasteners along the 12 foot face of the fixture. To achieve this, the LED boards are adhered to the inside of the mirrored stainless. We designed a pneumatic jig to apply uniform pressure to the adhesive tape as part of an assembly line for the fixtures. Once running smoothly, the assembly line of applying tape, connecting and testing LED boards, setting adhesive and connecting the hanger was turning out 60 fixtures a day.
Each fixture has an electrical and mechanical connection to the canopy. The mechanical connector we designed was a simple piece of bent spring-grade stainless steel. Sandwiched between two fingers, the clip can be inserted into the strut. When released, it springs open and registers by falling into smaller slots in the strut channel. Gravity holds it in place, and the spring acts as a fail-safe against fall out.