Lecture by Nikolas Weinstein

I’m greedy girl it’s the interim instructor of the glass three course here at CCA it’s my pleasure to be introducing to you this evening one of the more innovative and dynamic contemporary designers I’ve had the privilege of working with in my 22-year career in glass Nikolas Weinstein was born in New York City in 1968 his aesthetic derives from a long-standing interest in the natural world established during his internships at the American Museum of Natural History and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography his first formal experience in working with the medium of glass was through a program at the Rhode Island School of Design this is where Nicholas became fascinated by this unique material and its ability to transform from a formless liquid into a solidified fixed and sometimes complex shape after graduating from Brown University with a degree in literature Nicholas moved to San Francisco and started work for a graphic designer Michael Cronin Cronin excuse me blowing glass in the weekends he eventually left and started Nicholas Weinstein studios here in San Francisco in 1991 without extensive formal training and largely self-taught his interest in organic forms were unrestrained by more traditional techniques in glass which resulted in his unique approach to the manipulation of the material through his exploration of visual texture by the use of plaster and cast-iron molds his first expressions were smaller glass sculptures sold and designed boutiques and galleries when Frank O’Gara approached Nicholas to design and build an installation for the central atrium of DZ banks new headquarters in Berlin his largest Commission to that date had not exceeded seven feet in length this project when completed covered 2,000 square feet and weighed more than two and a half tons this was the launch of Nicholas’s continuing interest in the works that lie in the intersection of art and architecture and which leveraged new technologies to build living works in glass his concept of creating something large enough to have a conversation with the architecture resonates through all his contemporary installations he continues to work with some of the most innovative and renowned architects in the world creating pieces that range from the intimate and scale to those that define and care the character of an entire space and all of his works the beauty and message of the completed piece failed to justify the complexity involved with its creation each piece seemingly simple in its elegance holds unique solutions to numerous mechanical and physical challenges each piece manipulates this age-old material to create site-specific works that are original with an appearance unlike any other so without further ado it’s my distinct pleasure to introduce to you my friend and one of my favorite designers Nicolas Weinstein I’ll just skip whole sections so I thought I’d start by just talking about how I approach the work I don’t know if you’ve ever been at a dinner party or out for drinks and someone asks what you do and I’ve always found that it’s a pretty good litmus test if you’re eager or / willing to tell them if you are that means you’re probably proud of what you do I think that’s pretty important and if you’re not you should probably change what you’re doing that having been said I don’t always like going to work we’ll have this notion of creatives as consumed by their art and I have to say that often times I find the design process really difficult I dread it but the thing that keeps me coming back to it is that I think glass is a pretty remarkable material for three particular reasons the first being that it’s

extraordinarily technically challenging I learned this very early on unless you really do it for about 10 or 20 years straight you’re not gonna be very good at it it’s kind of like learning to play the piano the second thing is that it’s fundamentally about light a cheap parlor trick but very effective this is why they use it for fiber optics I’m just wiggling my fingers and because light has such a dramatic effect on the glass the pieces that you make with it are always changing and that’s a very compelling idea that the sculptures you make out of this material aren’t fixed the last thing is that as we don’t mentioned it’s magically elastic it can pretty much take any shape you can smoosh it stretch it will it twist it bend it and really create an infinite number of forms so I’m going to talk to you sort of in five sections tonight the first is the cosmopolitan crash course which is taking one project the cosmopolitan Towers and sort of walking you through a couple of things that we encounter to give you an idea of what the work looks like and what kind of problems it aggregates the second is has roughly been covered by cuido but perhaps not the imposter part so I’m going to tell you how I ended up doing what I do the third is entitled where do you find these people this is a common question when I work overseas I’d say that about 99.9% of our work is not in this country we don’t have any work here except for one of significant and people always sort of look at us after we’ve finished presenting the work and go who builds this stuff so I’ll talk a little bit about that because that’s pretty important the fourth thing I was going to talk about is fabric I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last three or four years sort of trying to build for lack of a better word glass textile systems so I thought I’d talk about that across four or five projects so you can kind of get inside my head and watch me think about one thing through a whole bunch of different situations and then the last thing is this idea that Guido mentioned of talking to buildings and that’s a sort of general what what do we do when we start these projects and what’s important to us so because of a crash course so this is in Singapore it’s an external installation it’s the only one that we’ve done outside and it’s at the end of an approach to a pair of residential towers at the left and right and the whole site is defined by these by this sort of language of columns right you’ve got these wooden columns in the front there and then actually at the rear of that image hard right you’ll see these giant pylons which are these large creatures in the middle that you see here and those are actually what the buildings sit on this they start about six stories up so the whole site has this kind of language when we figured that’s what we’d play with obviously these things are pretty large they’re about six meters tall so about 20 feet tall they’re big around pretty much just like trees so the trick on this project was the tension between all the straight lines in the architecture and then these very very simple pure curves and because there’s you know they’re pretty much the length of this stage to make a mold that smooth is really hard especially that big and because it’s just one curve and one curve only any perturbations any variances are immediately visible in the finished piece Just Cause the idea is simple you can you can pick up where it failed essentially so our first attempts bridge our first depends to build this kind of worked we got a bunch of faceting as I was just saying might be a problem and we also didn’t have it kill much bigger than a truck so we couldn’t really see how it’s gonna work and driving over the bridge one day I selected this one because it’s a little easier to see very clearly here I remarked on the beautiful catenary curves of the primary cables that you see the droop between the two stanchions and that’s a that’s a basic physical law that if you take two points that aren’t in the same vertical plane gravity will describe perfect arc between them and we figured that that or at least I did when I was driving alone and then convinced my shop that that was the way to actually make these things so as with many projects we built a kiln to

do this we’ve done two sort of large kilns for particular projects and this one which you can see Dave christening at the right that it’s first launched no can you hear me okay if I wasn’t talking into this so that yeah and this is it arriving at the shop but just to give you an idea of how it actually works the whole thing is on giant legs so it’s essentially a hat kiln that’s the description for that and there’s a large sort of railroad bed that rolls in underneath and then there’s a winch system that lifts it up and into place and on the inside I think I can’t really remember but I think after we made a lot of mistakes we came up with this which is an assembly that that has this sort of sling kind of like a dolphin carrier I don’t know if you’ve ever seen those and you basically we stacked up all these loose tubes in there and then get them hot enough that they would be beginning to get sticky not so hot that they collapse except your not hot enough they don’t stick so you get them stuck together so they begin to perform as a single bundle rather than a bunch of loose tubes and then we can remotely drop the sling from outside while the whole kilns still buttoned up and the whole piece is riding on a giant cable that runs through its core originally we had another set of winches and we’re gonna dial in different tensions to get different arcs that we needed but we didn’t have very much leverage and pretty much if you just let the kiln run for an extra half hour you got a deeper curve so that’s how we did that but what it allowed you to do was to build these these huge pieces that didn’t use mold so you didn’t have all this thermal mass and you got these curves that had sort of a built in tension because they showed how they were actually formed this is the thing that like if you’ve ever read Sara talked about his stuff he’s very insistent that because there’s a huge amount of pressure sort of forcing those plates between the rollers that that’s shown in the finished work and I think that’s something that plays out here too that you can see when something looks like it was dead and it just kind of slumped in the kilim and you can see when it was really kind of fighting or getting pulled by something which is the case here another thing that was really interesting to us on this project was the idea of these two bends and as I showed you before with that little movie with the light they’re kind of like fiber optics so you can either pump light through it or if they’re they’re not if they’re not jacketed by an opaque material light gets in through the sidewalls of the tubes runs down and you get these sort of spectacular and end glows at the end of the tubes and we wanted to make that a component of the piece and full disclosure we couldn’t get tubes that long so one of the big problems is is that tubing is made in these huge factories there aren’t a lot of them there are several stories tall and they run a continuous feed at the bottom they’re just sort of dripping glass constantly and it comes down and as it comes down it sets up and goes out on a conveyor so getting the full lengths wasn’t the problem it was that the tubes in here range from let’s say 20 millimeters up to about 80 millimeters and if you ship those across the country around the world and they’re 20 25 feet long they’re all gonna snap they they have no bending strength they’re tiny little sticks and until they’re actually fused together into these huge bumble bundles where they act like a big section then they’re strong so we literally just couldn’t figure out how to get this stuff to us so we sort of thought oh well maybe we can turn turn it into a design detail and that didn’t work and we started getting all this cracking well the idea of the aesthetic detail work but as you can see the idea of the structural detail failed massively and what you’re seeing here is just like coming down through the tubes and glass is very good at showing where it’s been broken if you pump enough light through it that’s actually how they test windows for the space shuttle is just the same system edge lighting shows any flaws very quickly so what was happening is here is you you have these two tubes coming up next to each other and all the tube joints were randomly spaced so you’d have a tube joint halfway up its neighboring tube you get these huge stress concentrations where this tube stopped and the next one started because everything getting hot and cold at different rates and they’re stretching at different rates and so you get one crack and cracks want to run and I want to keep going as long as there’s stress and what’s happening here is they’re actually jumping starting at

that stress concentrator where it two bends next to a neighbor and then run so our solution was actually to rebuild the tubes back at the studio where we actually started joining them together and here are a sort of forcing the tubes together under heat using them then actually we started over forcing them over joining them so pushing more glass into that well and creating these sort of thickened wall sections so they actually accentuate what we’re trying to get before and create these little sort of apparently percolating bubbles of light that travel up the piece and those are acting just like lenses is taking ambient light and focusing them down just like a regular magnifying glass would so that seemed to solve that problem we have the continuous runs so there’d be no more cracking we have these extra nice bubbles now and of course it continued to crack and it continued to crack and they continued to crack despite our best efforts it’s hard to convey how grueling this is you know to weld up all the tubes for one of these stalks probably took one person a week week and a half and then actually getting them all together prepping the fire you know every time you lost one of these things thousands and thousands of dollars and you know a week or two of several people’s labor and you get so deep into these problems and looking at all the data that sometimes very obvious solutions become obscured and especially difficult solutions remain obscured and in this case we have forgotten something that we learned several years earlier on on our first project which would have solved the whole problem if we have been able to remember it but we were in too deep this is the inside of the kiln box which is a crazy gaggle of wires and they’re actually it has an onboard controller that’s a little fancier than most kilns they’re actually used for ovens in airplane food prep places so like where they have these 300-foot conveyor and rolling muffins through so these kilns are able to turn on conveyor belts at certain portions and then slow them down or speed them up to cool the muffins etc so they have all these inputs and outputs on them and one thing that people usually don’t realize in kneeling for those of you who are not glass creatures is really just about cooling something at a very special rate the rate being slow enough that it can go through various stress points and phase changes so that everyone’s coming down to room temperature in a nice orderly fashion unlike the cracks we were getting before where they’re not so the problem is that everyone’s always monitoring the oven or the kiln right you go home you put something in the oven you dial it up to 500 you don’t really care how hot the oven is you care how hot your lamb chop is you’re a big potato is and it’s the same thing for glass you don’t really care what’s going on outside you care what’s going on inside the actual glass piece what’s going on in the kiln is irrelevant so we realized we had to hold these extra pickups on the Omnicon this kiln controller and we started running them in kind of like electrodes on someone’s head so we’d we’d bury 110 feet deep down the core of the of the the column one underneath it wanted either end and then actually as the kiln ran we could set up a program parameter where if any one of those data points got more than 20 degrees out of whack with any of the other data points everyone froze isn’t there a duct up game where you have to do that everyone just stops right and you wait until everyone falls back in line then the kiln goes so it basically builds automatic on-the-fly kiln programs based on what the actual glass is doing so that should give you a vague idea of some of the stuff that that we encounter in some of the projects one of the things I don’t know if you you know you’re at the doctor you’re filling out an insurance form and they always ask you for occupation and I of course never know what to put I am certainly not an engineer I don’t have a degree as Guido said complet and I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting down artists designer kind of but doesn’t really capture it the path that I took to get where I’m at and what the studio does I probably true for everyone who works with me it’s certainly not the path that I assumed I would go on I was

at Oberlin College losing my mind had to get out of there liked it a great deal but it was in the middle of nowhere transferred to Brown and had a semester off and went to New York I figured I’d find a just a weird eccentric job so I started going through the classifieds as one did back in the day and I guess 1988 and I found a job ad for a stained-glass assist at which I I called up and I said of course they knew what I was doing I didn’t but I figured coming from a family who was involved the arts I could wing it and it was an awful job it was a Brooklyn was not the place it is today this was in about a 20 minute walk from a subway station god save us and all the buildings were abandoned and they were at the top of this four-story small industrial building and the first three floors had nobody in them and the elevator was broken and one of my Jobs was to carry the raw glass up the stairs it’s like these big three four foot square sheets of plate and stained glass needless to say I had nightmares and my bosses were terrible one was named a I kid you not and the other one used to call me boy boy could you come here oh he thought it was very funny I of course did not and stained glass can be very beautiful but it’s I hope no one’s a big stained glass artist here it’s very monotonous and it was just drug so I figured there’s got to be something more to this I found that the experimental glass workshop in New York which used to be down Little Italy a tiny little place it was sandwiched between Umberto’s clam house where there was a big mob rub out and a gelato place and it was this weird little labyrinth like entry up this ramp and there were two or three furnaces and there was guys name I can’t remember anymore who did all these very traditional Venetian figurines by himself in the exact same way they did it in the 16th century in the 17th century a real sort of talented kook and I took a couple lessons there and then I left them went off to school got my degree in comp lit I had extra time my last semester at Brown I figured out what the hell I’ll go take a class at RISD I took the introductory glass one class with a guy named Michael shiner and one of the assignments was the word organic and right of course didn’t do very well everyone else was doing these very conceptual things bottled blood bottle of urine bottle of milk and I made things that looks like squashes I took everything very literally and got very interested in this sort of language of organic stuff and a friend of my mom I’ve given some pieces to my mother saw one of them commissioned one that I made it went to New York she refused it I was dumbstruck some doesn’t do that partly because I thought it was nice and it was my mother’s you know close friend of her so I decided to shop it around I called up some place on Madison Avenue that showed a lot of design objects it was owned by Japanese company and I went over there showed them my stuff oh I was in town delivering something for Commission and thought you might be interested in seeing my work and they started carrying it and then I moved to San Francisco a couple months later and started working for this guy Michael Cronin who unfortunately just died very recently a very sort of formative person in my life and he he did a lot of stuff he did a bunch of work for the post office he also named the Kindle and TiVo and did a lot of big branding I of course was his Lackey I did a bunch of design work on a polo book and he was always super supportive he used to loan me money to rent time over in the East Bay to blow my stuff on the side that I was still selling and at this point I was starting to get it into places like dumps and Barney’s and things like that and then I had I think I laughed at about six months there and then I had the I I quit you’re fired conversation which essentially I figured that he asked me to go out to lunch and I thought he’s gonna can me cuz I didn’t really know how to do graphic design so I started saying I felt badly so I was like listen you know maybe it’s time then I moved on he thinks that I actually quit so to this day no one really knows but then I started working in the basement of my house in San Francisco which was pretty much a dirt crawlspace and for the next five or six years I continued to make that production work for lack of a better

word most of the stuff was sculptural ostensibly functional not really and out of the blue the Gary Commission happened which really was not more complicated than he saw it at someone’s house hey who did that and then someone from his office got in touch with me and a couple of people asked me what’s it like to work with him you know he’s a pretty amazing architect and the answer is he was totally hands-off I always feel badly I don’t have any spectacular stories to tell you other than he had supreme confidence considering that I had no idea what I was doing and you know when I went down there for the first presentation of the models that I’d come up with I remember at 3:00 they were sort of iterative so I started with the first this is when I was trying to do so I thought this would work with that and it’ll be relative to this and then I miss model I sort of tried to deal with that problem and change it and after I gone on for about 10 minutes he said that that that that that which one do you want to do and I said number three and he said okay so it was for the main atrium of the headquarters of a bank a DZ Bank and at that time I was 26 when I started it this project took me all in probably about four or five years and I was totally green I hadn’t made anything bigger than about my wing my wingspan and I learned a huge amount in an incredibly quick assaultive and often extraordinary way and this project pretty accurately predicts everything that I’ve done since then it was a really seminal project it was just inside freezer plots which is where the Brandenburg gates are so mm-hmm has super super strict zoning so the exterior of the building you couldn’t really do much with does it let out on this historic Plaza this is the divide between East and West essentially and so all the energy went to the center of the building which was that weird thing is the conference hall otherwise known as the horses had and the piece we ended up doing was pretty much just a conversation with that you couldn’t avoid it you couldn’t ignore it it was it was quite an icon so it was menacing somewhat it was quite opaque it was covered in stainless and the insides quite beautiful it’s all covered in this beautiful honey wood very inviting the outsides terrifying so we figured that our response to it had to be a very ephemeral and light and that idea of going into a space and spending all your time trying to think of how do you respond to that is pretty much the way we start every project so there are 36 panels that fly through the space they’re about the size of cars and kind of rise up to meet the mouths of the conference hall look there’s weed oh so now I thought I’d tell you two stories about some of the kinds of problems we ran into how we solved them and I think they’re both they describe very well how absolutely adrift we were and how we worked through it sort of remarkably doing a lot of pretty crazy things so as I said I hadn’t built anything very big before this and you can’t really blow anything bigger than yourself so that wasn’t gonna be the solution to this space which was quite large and can you guys hear me okay so one of the things I immediately started thinking about was you needed a lot of glass and you need a lot of it readily available because I certainly didn’t have any big furnaces of production facilities to crank out that kind of stuff so plate glass very common very dense very heavy very boring and that’s one of the reason why you see so much large architectural plate glass sculpture it’s readily available and it’s very well tested and people have trouble finding stuff that it can get their paws on that’s very quantifiable so I got interested in tubing which is also very readily available mostly for laboratories and they also reprocess it a lot for a lot of the jars that you buy your pickles in and things like that and when you create these fused bundles with

it they’re essentially hollow honeycombs cellular structures so they’re very light so I made the first panel in my little kiln that was probably much bigger than this table and I was pointed towards a young guy at Arup which is an engineer at big engineering Furman and he was in their London office and he was in San Francisco for a big glass conference and he grabbed this other guy Michael Mulhern who’s a does glass connection systems he did a lot of stuff like all the little doodads on pay’s pyramids at the Louvre all the connections on the outside of the glass box of bullsh X P surround the planetarium the big sphere in New York I think what happened was Graham was like I gotta go meet this guy he doesn’t sound like he know it’s a but he doing could you come with me I need backup so I met them in the hotel lobby and the day before I had broken the sample and was the only sample I had and it was maybe this big and I couldn’t I mean I couldn’t do anything about it so I turned up at this meeting very sheepish because as I said I didn’t really know how I was gonna do any of this these guys were engineers and to add insult to injury I was like here’s my pea soup that had these big cracks and missing pieces of glass and to make a long story short it turned out that their cracks were sort of the solution the saving grace to that whole project because none of the glass in there is tempered and none of it is laminated which are two common forms of safety glass used in public spaces the ideas that in one case laminated glass you hit it it breaks its lumps it’s held together by this inter layer of glue so that you can deal with the situation take it out of the store window frame what have you tempered glass in your heart in your car explodes and the ideas you set up a stress pattern in the glass such that explodes in such small pieces that no one really gets hurt by oh this stuff was kind of an end-run on both of those things and effectively a very specialized new kind of safety glassware because it was that cellular structure it had all these individual compartments and it tended to localise quarantine if you cracks and so they didn’t spread and so you had time to actually deal with it and when we were pitching that project to the we had to go through the German authorities and we spent about a week making a special video where we would get like 9 or 10 meters up and dropped various things on glass panels to show them that it would effectively catch them and we dropped lights on them drop wrenches on them and they caught them kind of like mitts so that that’s something that sort of was as you can tell a big mistake I hadn’t intended to break the panel but it yielded this sort of remarkable result and we sort of used a lot of those cellular structures and many of the works since then the other thing was that on that project we also started getting some very complicated sort of internal glass questions in terms of annealing and the structure of the assemblies that we were making and we figured that the only people who could probably help us were people at Corning since they had done so much in those fields so we just started calling Corning and working our way through their phone tree until we found this guy who was specialists in annealing named Hank Hagee we’ve done all the annealing schedules for the Palomar telescope lenses these huge huge lenses that are still around today and the other guy was this guy herb Miska who had worked on as I mentioned before the windows for the space shuttle and he was actually they were both retired guys they were probably 75 80 herb was building a canoe in his garage and we didn’t start having these conversations with them we were amazed because Palomar telescope lenses you know Space Shuttle and it was pretty incredible and they were really interested in talking to us because now they were retired and they were just stunned at how quickly we would try stuff you know they’re used to working with government agencies and it would take years to build anything or get anything done and we’d be on the phone with them one day they’d say well why can’t you try this one like we’ll call you tomorrow and we’d go do the test and so it was very sort of down and dirty so there was this very sort of simpatico back-and-forth relationship between these old guys from Corning and us so there was this guy Hank I used to call captain I don’t know why I started doing that so we get on the phone and I like you know captain Hagee how are you gonna go like fire and we had built this kiln a different kiln that we have built just

for a project and as you can see there through the door it was all top fired meaning all the elements were on the roof basically much like your oven and the broiler part of your oven and that’s why Hank one day said that all the annealing problems we were having were the consequence of us having a dang boiler which we were very offended by and so we started talking about convection and how to solve that and so we ultimately decided to get these big stainless steel propellers and try and mix up the air kind of like how you now have little fans and your convection toaster oven and stuff like that to blow the air around we’ve built this assembly on the backside with motors and we mounted it and you know the you can see on the front there there they just these tiny little windows that are about six inches there quartz windows which have a higher melting temperature than most of the stuff we were working at so you could still see through them and they wouldn’t start slumping when we started slumping our glass but you couldn’t really tell what was going on and so we convinced Chris worked with us to put on a big respirator and climb in the kiln and we turn on the propellers and then we lit smoke bombs and he was sitting in there kind of you know watching the smoke swirl around him as we would adjust the propeller slightly to see you could kind of get a good mix going where you would create an even sort of temperature throughout the kiln and when we finally did try to fire a panel with our new little convection adjustment we came in the next morning we turned on turned on the propellers closed it up and left we came in the x1 we couldn’t see in any of the windows and I was standing there it was like 6:00 in the morning it came in early because I was really anxious and I was looking through the window and I was thinking to myself why would it be let’s see it would be colder inside so water would wait no that doesn’t work because when you’re like your car it’s on the outside I was staring at her trying to figure out how there could possibly be condensation inside of a kiln which is usually hot and then it finally occurred to me and I opened the door to the kiln and the whole thing was covered in about three inches of snow the whole panel the floor of the the kiln looked like it was pure powder it was quite quite beautiful and what had happened was the propellers I had the way we had fixed them no one thought about this the propellers had gotten warm then huh and they had expanded and then as they spun the propeller started crawling up the shafts and over the course of an hour sort of made it all the way to the back wall of the kiln where there was an ice you know six or seven inches of fluffy refractory material and just beat it all to shreds and dispersed it like a snowstorm on the whole inside of the kiln needless to say we didn’t use the propeller solution anymore but it’s a good example of some of the crazy stuff we’ll get involved in some of them are crazy failures but they’re all pretty critical to most of our process the people who work with me this is a model that I made out of my favorite jet sorry a German crepe paper because it kind of you can get it stretch much like glass when it’s hot so I found it to be a great modelling material but then of course you start making shapes that look good with that particular paper and so you end up with things that are kind of an expression more of the materiality of the paper than what you’re planning on building and I found that to be a very good exercise for getting you out of your comfort zone so a lot of times will end up trying to figure out how you make a sculpture that looks like paper and glass and it’s also another way of saying that I really don’t believe that you should design based on what’s in your toolbox you should design based on what you want to do and then figure out how to do it and I think that’s an expression of the fact probably that I didn’t have any formal training no one told me how I was supposed to hold the jacks or carry the pipe or those are blowing things I never learned what the right way was so there was never this anxiety about doing it wrong and I’d say that usually out by the time we finish any one project I’d say about 70 or 80 percent of the way through we finally figure out how you’re actually supposed to do it and probably about the first 50 or 60 percent of it is spent breaking stuff failures changing direction redoing the whole

design pretty radically I’m not saying this lightly like it’s not uncommon that halfway the new project will just completely change everything about how we’re approaching the problem the material the size of the tubes whether it’s fired vertical or horizontal it just kind of throw a lot up in the air and by the time the projects are over we’re usually pretty bored with it that you kind of see all the mistakes usually because it’s taken like a year so you grow and you’re like oh that’s not that interesting anymore let’s do it this way and so by the time you get to the end of it you’re always thinking about the next way you would do it and so a lot of what we do at the shop is build things that we don’t have that we need on the left is a weaving machine that allows us to put sort of anywhere from four to ten to twelve sort of weave laces on these sort of woven tube assemblies the middle one is for feeding cables through said umpteen number of tubes the one on the end is a little fire polisher but it shunts relate to do this kind of stuff it doesn’t really matter whether that people know anything about glass I’m I’m really not interested in people who have those degrees or any degree for that matter it’s more important to find people who like solving problems it’s usually more about how someone thinks about a problem that’s important to me you want the people who want to take apart the clock when it breaks and fix it so I thought I would suffice it to say that we actually have two people who studied and got their degrees in art history and we actually have one guy who worked in a tuna packing canning plant and also pretty much every other job known to man but I was just gonna tell you about three people in particular Arlen got his degree in food science up at Davis he also participated this was actually part of his application to the studio his resume was a club that held competitions for who could build the plane that was able to carry the most weight only using a particular size engine particular wingspan acceptor and you make your version of the plane and they have these contests this was one of the things that Arlen did and he actually was on his way to go work at the laboratory for Sierra Nevada in their brewery laboratory I guess Quality Assurance and we poached him thankfully and Sam was trained as an engineer and is obsessed with Lego and actually over the years versions of tools we have have slowly started appearing in the shop where he’ll come in one day and he’s like oh look I made the boom-lift from Shanghai and on the right is our chop saw and when he got sick over a couple days we built this from memory so here was say I made a lego model of this big kiln in the shop so Sam won’t you give us quick rundown of what we’re seeing first year you’re gonna see the vents open on top and you door opens with the setup counterweights and Bender slides out super and then there are all these little pins what are those doing the pins are used to inquire a shape into the glass that were forming there’s a set of gears and chains underneath which raise the platen button picks up each pin that raises it right set any any shape that you’re looking for yeah which was cool right because you don’t have all the thermal mass we don’t have these really big expensive mole excellent we’re glad you spend your time doing this when you’re sick the last person I was gonna introduce to you was a day of who unfortunately just left us he’s long been a huge fan at the Exploratorium he’s now in charge of their outdoor arts program he was trained also as an engineer he also was a program or an apple for a while he also worked at ILM doing robotics and puppetry and has the claim of fame as having been the puppeteer for the alien that pops out of the belly and space

balls as you can see basically a lot of the people who work for me are gear heads they like tinkering and because we create a lot of problems that’s a very important kind of person to have around needless to say I couldn’t do any of what I do without them and one of the more interesting things that I’ve found over the years is that the work skews to whoever is working for me so when we had a lot of mechanical guys machining guys the work started getting about connections and very physical relations and then over the last there was a two two and a half year period where we have three people in the shop who were I don’t know enough about coding to really say this with any great sense of assurance but they were like solid mid-level kody kind of people so all the solutions started to be driven by these very intensive CAD solutions where it wasn’t just using CAD it was sort of piggybacking programming languages on top of them to automate a lot of solutions to logistical problems so the solution that the artwork was allowed to sort of gain all of these logistical statistical elements that never would have been possible if we didn’t have those kinds of people so who works for you is really really important in this fourth section I just wanted to sort of talk you through one idea across a bunch of different projects so you can kind of see how I look at it to an extent you know after Berlin we have made those simple curved panels and we started getting really interested in double curb double curved surfaces where we might fire two three four times and we would literally sort of be remotely reaching in with a whole bunch of cable systems and pulleys and weights and sort of peeling parts of the glass up and over kind of like marionettes where we would be remotely kind of controlling the panel because we couldn’t put our hands in we would do it sort of via these cable systems and one of the frustrations with a lot of the fused work was that once you installed you couldn’t change it you couldn’t tweak it you couldn’t adjust it once it left the kiln that was it so in a piece like this which was done for a Norman Foster residence he didn’t live there he designed it the pieces nest really closely and so to get the four good pieces that you see here we probably made about ten or twelve and scrapped six or eight of them so even when we’d model them very carefully and digitize them and then program the key on them and set up all these kinds of standards to check against when you close the door they would invariably start doing their own thing and you have the choice of either stopping it or letting it go and of course you let it go because that’s when you always get the nicest stuff sometimes it would run away from you or sometimes you get stuff that you wouldn’t imagine so you couldn’t sort of ensure that you’d get these pieces that would actually work so it’s kind of a crapshoot and as we started getting commissions that were bigger and bigger this was not a very reliable way to work or way to sort of base of business by any means and for the for this other project that we started working on for capella which was also foster building and Singapore I was just noodling in the glass shop this is probably about an inch and a half just kind of making stuff flailing trying to come up with some kind of inspirational idea they made this little thing and after you know sat on my desk for awhile I started looking at it and I kind of started to appreciate that it had these sort of accordion like qualities right it had this pleating this Banting that went up and down back and forth we started to think about that as a way of building sculptures that you sort of create these modular systems where you’d have hundreds and hundreds of tubes and they’d be sewn together into these sort of fabrics if you will right if you think about an accordion all the vents in it are actually stiff the leather doesn’t Bend it’s the way they’re all related to their neighbor that allows you to get these incredibly complex organic forms so when I started looking at it I started thinking all those crazy shapes you could make with these stiff pieces of leather and according that I thought oh well glass is stiff at room temperature you could do that and then maybe you could actually build something where you could change its shape at room temperature and you could be basically sculpt without heat so we started to build these this is sort of the tail end of the process but started building these armatures based on scale models and then sewing these sort of panels of glass into these

accordion light structures that were then shipped over to Singapore actually suspended on like giant rubber bands inside of these space frame crates and then once on site they were prepped and lifted into space warm and here you’re seeing a whole bunch of feeder motors that could be sold individually kind of drive them all in unison get them up there and then we could start actuated motors differentially to adjust the attitude I’m gonna get it roughly how we wanted and then we could go up there and you could actually change the shape kind of like hauling a sale in or letting it out as you could as it were and if you go up there you can you can literally push on the piece and it’ll it’ll kind of give a little bit you can push a depression into it so this was this was a big deal right because you could be on site and you could be looking at it going right which I know all the architects in the room have wanted to do countless times with various walls but then we started thinking like well what would happen if you unfurled it what if you started to actually treat treat it just like raw material just as sort of sections that would get strung together into these long lengths and then sort of sculpt it on site so you could start imagining sculptures that were enormous that could get pieced together inside the room and sculpt it on site something you could never ship because of course it would be far too large so the idea the whole sculpture that I’m going to show you shipped in two boxes that were about six meters to 20 feet long maybe three feet two to three feet wide to three feet tall tiny and then they’d get taken out and get articulated into their vague accordion kind of shape based on a bunch of CAD that we had done that model I just showed you before was kind of the Bible for everything and then they would get lifted on site in the same six meter section and they’re basically like giant wet noodles you can see those flecks so even though I kind of wanted it to be flexible I’ve never anticipated there would be this flexible it was almost unruly some of these lifts were really hard to control because the stuff that just be noodling all over the place and the only thing that’s holding it in place is about five or six hundred very small small cables and based on their exact connection to points on the ceiling to exact points on the piece very particular lengths those describe the general shapes that you’re seeing and then you can kind of stand back and go a little up a little down a little this way that way and you can kind of you can tweak it on site and kind of finesse these curves this was done with about eight or nine people occasionally ten over the course of about three weeks and this is a this is a real game-changer because what you start to realize is that scale goes out the window that you could make something in this case you know a city block and a half two city blocks long you could make it five blocks long you could make it two storeys high five storeys high you get the idea because it’s a modular system you can go any which way which is really important if you’re building stuff that’s supposed to talk to buildings the other thing is that the idea that your limitation on building something only as big as a car or a tree also goes out the window because they’re not stiff elements they’re flexible so they can withstand pressures and changes and adjust essentially they’ve got hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of joints unlike those giant glass trees you probably couldn’t get them much past about six meters unless he started making them a lot fatter but that’s a scary proposition so then we started to miss all the sensuality that we’ve gotten when we were actually working the glass hot right so we had started with the the simple forms then we’ve done the double curved forms then we got frustrated with the fact they were killing formed so we made this fabric and we lift it on space but it wasn’t really fabric so we made it act like fabric and then we started sculpting it on site but they were all straight tubes so they didn’t have that certain agenda c’est quoi that you get from glass that is actually bent so we started to put the fabric back in the kiln and by very carefully putting a couple of parameters on which parts could fall in or fall out you can then close up the kiln and it was kind of like its own controlled little ecosystem and you kind of let gravity play out based on where you were holding it and restraining it and you’d get these incredibly sort of sensual forms that

were still flexible so in this case they were potted into a track with this electrical silicon so you go up to them and hit them and they’re kind of like jello they go pop which means that once they get on site you can nest them incredibly closely so if there are any variances between the pieces whereas before and that first piece that I showed you you know if this part went out four inches too far and you tried to put them together the way you design that wouldn’t fit whereas in this one they just kind of they gave so you could get these really really complex nested forms and by the way all the color that you’re seeing in the room there is just the surrounding jungle and pool there they’re kind of like chameleons so they just throw back whatever colors around them and that’s the way they kind of integrate into the spaces that they’re in the tracks that you saw them formed in are actually behind that system it’s a sort of system of leather tiles that we made that echoes the construction of the surrounding ceiling that’s made of these kind of Domino shaped mirrored bronze tiles so it’s a way that it’s sort of supposed to integrate into this space most recently I’ve become obsessed with this image from an assay Miyake ad for those of you know his clothes he loves the accordion the pleat and this thing just kind of looked like a lot of stuff that I always wanted to make I spent a lot of time thinking I was gonna be an oceanographer when I was in high school and I worked at Scripps and this looks like crazy new tube ranks or an enemy like things to me and so we’ve been sort of trying to then go one step back and say well if you take the fabric you get it hot and you actually put curves into it and you start getting these but you know you can make these very very complex shapes what happens if you start treating that again like fabric that you can sculpt on the fly those pieces that I just showed you in that last project we took fabric put it in the kiln got it hot and then whatever came out was fixed and you could kind of nestle him but that was it with this stuff we’re starting to play around with the idea that you could kind of do the Shanghai like project again where you could go back into a space and just sculpt on site but instead of having all these straight tubed fabrics you can have these much much more complex central shape so everything you’re seeing here is made of tubes that all have the exact same radius so that means that they’re all identical which just seems impossible right those are all the same tube so you get back to the ability to have a kit of parts where you can go on site of tube bricks you swap it out it’s a system it’s if Lego and so you can see you can start getting some some some really really complex forms that basically look blown right you get all that stretchiness and drooping that’s really starting to look like fabric again so the last thing I was going to talk to you about was this idea of talking to building you know the first stuff that I made was essentially gallery work unto itself self-reflexive wasn’t really about anything around it not very interesting to me and then the work that we started to do was all about the space that was in after the Gehry building so for this project that I showed you earlier it was actually in this Foster Hotel in the middle of the courtyard there was an oculus and this was a ballroom that was actually underneath it and because all the natural light was coming in from above you walked in the first thing you did was look up because that’s where all the light was so we decided that obviously that’s where the glass should go because glass likes light and the whole space was built of circles the oculus the dome circular room the outside Carter was circular so the whole piece became about circles and when we started scaling up the piece to be big enough to fit in the room and look right you blocked the whole skylight and so we eventually cut out the center kind of like a doughnut it’s kind of like a swirling vortex when you walk in you can still look up and see the sky but it’s still it’s sort of quite massive in settings sort of elevation despite the fact that it’s got a hollow middle so the point here is if you took this piece out of the room it really wouldn’t make very much sense it’s so integrated and influenced by where it is that it really wouldn’t work anywhere else this is the one project that I’m going to show you that’s actually in this country in our city it’s called bar Agricole and it’s built in an old warehouse space that was originally a brewery that has these three big old skylights in it and the architect put in this dropped ceiling so the place wasn’t so tall because it was a very long sort of shotgun space and then we proposed these glass sort of boxes that essentially extrude skylights

down through the space and we work really closely with the architects to sort of make these cutouts so there’s a very very close relationship between the architecture and the sculpture and hopefully you know you walk into the place and you’re not sure whether they architect did those things or whether the sculptor did part of the ceiling or this is probably most reflective of where we kind of want to be that blurred line between being a sculptor and an architect this is just an image this is just natural light coming down through the piece in terms of where we’re kind of heading this was a project that we started working on that was actually most of it was underground so there’s three or four stories you see there sorry the three stories below the fourth is above-ground didn’t get any natural light and there was a huge space over here so we started working on this idea of using heliostats which were quite old systems of technology where you’re essentially bouncing sunlight in very particular directions so today you now just have mirrors on motor drives that track the Sun as it moves through the sky and it’s always heading it into a particular space or in this case to a mirror that shoots it down through that stairwell and we started imagining a sculptural kind of light piece that this sort of performed a function that actually diffused the light became a an aesthetic central focus to the space but was actually doing some work you can start to imagine how it’d be rendered based on some of the fabrics I showed you just before and inside of the column there would be these it would be wrapped in this lenticular plastic so the light coming down would get redirected out and kind of wash to that thing and you’d get light through the whole stairway all the way down three or four stories underground um that’s the end of everything I was going to show you I guess the last thing that I was going to say was uh I’ve been doing this for I guess about 14 years at least kind of what you’re seeing on the screen right now and all of its been tubing and every once in a while I get someone going so you do anything besides tubes and the answer is currently now we seem to remain challenged by it despite the fact that we’ve been using them for so long none of the projects are really identical they’re all kind of different and some pretty fundamental way and if it’s not obviously aesthetic then it’s I can assure you it’s definitely technical it’s kind of like holding a geode and you know we usually get tired of it this way but you could kind of look at it like that or like that and presumably when we run out of different angles to look at the stuff we’ll get rid of it I have a sneaking suspicion that’s hopefully gonna be in the next year or two but I still find it incredibly interesting and I think probably most of what I find interesting is the challenges I was talking about so thank you and if anyone has any questions nine I assume you mean sort of politically well so for example in in the Agricole project there are two or three redundant systems in the glass so one of the main ones is you you basically want to if each of those boxes as you extrude them down have four sides so you basically want to stop each of the walls from getting going and you can’t see them they’re very delicate cable networks that come down if the box is here that come down on an angle to sort of roughly a little below mid point on the panel right so this guy stops him from swinging this way and then there’s a grid that passes along the inside of the piece then goes back up again so you basically got this so on both sides of each of those wall panels they can’t do this so that that’s one system that

stops them from getting going and every one of those connections to the ceiling has little dampening elements in it where the cable actually attaches then there are four horizontal weaves up each panel so even if one fails there are three redundant ones above it and then inside of every single tube that’s hanging there there are two totally separate cables that are continuously tied back up to the ceiling so the idea is that Venom pieces break they’re basically like beads on a necklace you might get a couple little chips but all of the larger elements are held in place by those cables running through the course there’s some other solutions to you know every projects kind of different the first project that I showed you or that was on the screen this guy was actually in Tokyo and as you can imagine there surprisingly understandably concerned abandon and there’s about a 50 page report seismic modeling that we did with Arab on in different conditions exactly which areas of the glass are stressed and how highly they’re stressed and the piece unto itself is seismically pretty safe but this particular client it’s a very very big prominent Japanese developer this is kind of their their baby their new headquarters and everything about the building is maxed out and they insisted on putting this new patented seismic ceiling that they’ve developed above the sculpture so the whole rest of the building might be doing this but apparently the ceiling immediately above our sculpture is just gonna be floating there but it’s pretty interesting the outside skin of the building has a whole series of giant hydraulic Pistons that are actually somewhat visible apparently in the Tokyo market it’s almost a selling point where the seismic systems become aesthetic and a marketing kind of element but all the stuff that we’ve done you know that video we made for Berlin for the code people no one would ever look at it because you know the fixtures code guy was like that’s not a fixture that’s uh you know architecture the architecture structural guy would be like that’s not architectural structure that’s like a either a fixture or it’s an art thing and you know hot potato so most of the projects that we do were essentially policing ourselves in concert with Arab for these some of these works are amazingly technically challenging and you troll with technology at it but at the same time you have to rely it’s an elated knowledge of a guy who was 75 years old from the Corning Museum how does that work how do you deal with a uncertainty science for tubing yeah I mean I don’t know how to say this by the way the guy who’s 75 is like supremely he’s actually he died a couple years ago but if you’re really into like annealing Sciences he’s a he’s a I mean major domo kingpin so he he’s very well established and respected but you know honestly at the end of the day yeah it’s us alone in the studio and most of the time we know more about this glass than even guys at Corning or Arab so in a lot of these projects everyone’s getting in each other’s sand boxes because there are no standards for the step we’re building so in a lot of architectural conditions right you look up beam strains for various two by fours and six by eights and all the rest of it when you start putting glass together like this every single assembly acts differently and then when you treat it as a sculptural material where not everyone is identical and the quality control is largely aesthetic you get all kinds of variability that even if you could engineer it you know it might change because I decided to make it go a little that way as opposed that way so at the end of the day we often do we’re sort of like getting the engineers up to speed on how this stuff actually acts so we’re doing a lot of testing in-house so we have lots of we have some pretty fun videos of just we just break stuff over and over and over again it’s it’s really pretty much just like I I would imagine a standard lab you know

control points data do it again take your lowest answer and that’s your greatest strength and build significant safety margins into it but I think the real question you were asking is how do you how do you keep doing it when you don’t know what’s gonna work it was that kind of yeah you can’t you have to yeah or you have to get comfortable with it I mean we do have insurance carriers which which honestly is a little bit almost more for our clients than it is for us there are very few standards for the quick easy direct answer to a question is it’s a total nightmare and we fall through every single crack that’s established because right now we carry all the insurance that an architect does and all the insurance that a contractor does and normally in the insurance world their liability circles are either totally separate or one negates the other so you know like if you’re carrying an Ino policy and they find out that you’ve also got an installation policy that like ow while that voids clause three four of six seven because normally you don’t get the people who are designing this stuff also actually going on-site and installing it so the way we work is we do everything from pretty much soup to nuts so from concept through engineering a lot of times we’re doing some of the engineering our engineers are doing some of it then we’re actually building it we’re usually the ones packing it we’re always the ones packing it because who would you ask the pack and then we’re the ones who fly over and install it so in terms of liability scenarios we’re just we’re like swerving all over the road like getting in everyone’s we’re not where we’re supposed to be and we’re in the process of trying to you know reconsider that whole question yet again but we’re we don’t fit into any niche very well and it causes a lot of problems exhilarating and terrifying you know I mean you’re bluffing you know ninety percent of the time I mean I’d say that so is I mean that was the reason why I’ve partly entitled that impostor you know because there was there was nothing in my experience to suggest that I could handle project budgets that big schedules liability engineering you know you’re in there there are plenty of stories on Berlin where you know I had friends helping me I was so deep behind the line we lost so much money on that and so much sleep and like everything I mean I would do it all over again but I had friends coming in on the weekends like helping load kilns and unlock it was like a sort of became a bit of a family affair and when when all these panels were breaking and breaking and breaking you couldn’t figure out how to kill him that convection the propellers and all those kind of stuff yeah I’d often be there at like 1 o’clock in the morning babysitting the kiln convinced that it was gonna break again or we the solution wouldn’t work and yeah there you have it I mean there’s there’s nothing I can say that that explains why I was able to stick with it and that it was a huge jump in scale and there was no there was no legitimate process for kind of like how am I supposed to deal with this like who you ask I mean I used to the guy who was my liaison at Gary’s office was great but I mean he doesn’t know what the hell I’m doing most of the time you can’t help me figure out the problem with glass like what do you do when this happens I don’t know if that answered your question I mean there there was no precedent for me personally there’s no reason why I should have thought I should I could do that is there a reason those your projects are suspended and are you

interested in ground-based ones like yeah I’d be more interested in doing that I mean the tree projects planted it sort of has problems I mean the ones that get down into people’s face you’ve got to work a lot more closely with the architects because there has to be a very aligned dance where you know pieces are protected or positioned in such a way that it doesn’t look like you’re putting a glass barrier in front of them because that kills it I mean in the glass tree piece there was you know there was there was a pit there but you couldn’t see it and there was no rail on the pit but you’d never stepped into it because immediately saw a pit so there wasn’t this like psychological moment where you like I can’t go there because there’s a barrier you just don’t in a way and so for a lot of the pieces that come down into people’s space I think it’s really important that there’s a really tight integration with the architecture so that it doesn’t look like an artificial condition that’s that’s protecting the piece and that’s hard to find most architects or a lot of architects forgive me would probably want to do everything themselves and secondly the way most design systems work is they’re very sequential so the kind of work we do that’s largely considered part of finish or interiors never gets thought of until like everything else is already drawn and set up so there’s very little opportunity for people to interact it’s a little less that way in Japan but certainly in the United States it’s it’s terrible there’s not a lot of holistic design where people are talking about interiors along with architecture along with engineering along with construction all up front and in terms of architects I don’t I don’t know if I’d say one in particular I would like I mean I think that because the simple answer is I’d really like to do a lot more work in Japan I’ve been there nightmare in the beginning but once you kind of figure it out it’s during just incredible and money there’s a lot more money and that was Far East and you know I ended up going to Singapore in like 2004 a very small Commission and while I was over there I just I went around and I met a bunch of Architects that I figured as long as I’m in all the way over here I met as well and nothing happened for about two years and then about two years later they all started to hit when that whole Asian economy really started to take off and Singapore is sort of with Hong Kong it kind of those are the twin engines for design in that whole part of the world so we started getting more work there and then you know work baguettes work but gets work here people see it or you’re always flying over there so you figure as long as you’re in Singapore you might as well go to Shanghai and Tokyo and it’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy I also you know I think that sort of on a philosophical level a lot of Asia’s a lot of Asian culture and religion is much more simpatico with the whole theme of nature as much as at the same time they’re destroying large parts of it you know there’s there is an intruder is an interest that I don’t think really exists or in the United States the interest in nature is has a very different kind of very male kind of feeling to it right the world order or Asia is a lot more I think in keeping with some of the aesthetics that I’m interested the short answer is yes we’re getting a

lot better at it and the only reason why we’re getting better at it is that we’ve done more of it so we’re very we’re pretty good at tracking all of our labor pretty closely and we’ve been doing it for quite a long time so every project that we produce is another data point so the best way to say it is to the extent that all the projects are experimental and necessarily have this component that’s unknowable which kind of has something to do with what you were talking about the only way of being able to be predictive about it is to get a big enough backlog of unpredictable projects does that make sense so they actually start to play out where over like six or seven projects you can sort of say like installation is always twenty to twenty-five percent of the project if it’s this kind of a project where there’s a lot of heart for me hot forming involved it skews 230 but that’s largely how we do it now it’s it’s a totally internal system it there’s no logic beyond that cross paths you know I mean I’ve worked on a couple of projects that he was involved in or he was actually the other for the Berlin project there are two people I occasionally run into and I don’t know either of them personally so I don’t mean suggest that I do one is Chihuly on one or two projects we’ve sort of they were the other person who was up for bid or trying to get the project and Jamie carpenter who’s and both of them are I kind of feel like I’m caught between them you know Jamie carpenter I don’t know if you guys know him I bet that both of those guys went through the RISD program in the 60s and started Pilchuck together but Jamie carpenters sort of more of almost like an architect slash engineer so all of his installations are very very they’re tight and they’re mechanical were precise he did those little dichroic fins on either side of those boat shapes at the top of the terminal in San Francisco and so he’s almost more techie so he’s not really competition or someone that I would think as doing the same he does something totally different than I do so we don’t cross paths that often because I think it’s a very different aesthetic and Julie is kind of like the totally opposite perspective his work is almost not about wherever it is it’s about itself in color and so the kind of clients or projects that we’re after are really a lot more about like integrating and being forgiveme contextual so but those are the only two I kind of run into okay super thing