Client: Kansas City International Airport
Location: Kansas City, MO, United States
Completion date: 2023
Kansas City International Airport
Public Art Administrator
City of Kansas City
UV Printing on the Acoustical Ceiling Tiles
The Local Print Shop
Cloud Gazing is a series of 10 cloud-like suspended forms in Kansas City International Airport’s new terminal. Inspired by the dream-like quality of watching clouds over the expansive planes of the Midwest and pareidolia, the tendency to see images in nebulous forms like clouds. The artwork consists of ten cloud-like forms suspended along the concourse ceiling. Hanging nylon straps of varying and precise length hang down to give each cloud a three dimensional and billowing quality while obscuring vibrant images above each cloud. These images are made of four prismatic combinations of color that are interlaced together and UV printed on the acoustic tiles within the frame of each cloud. Together the straps and images produce a three-dimensional barrier-grid animation. The perceived image shifts between the four patterns as visitors walk down the concourse or move at a constant speed on the moving walkways. Depending on a visitor’s orientation they will notice the animated shift between the interlaced images, or they will see a softer shift in colors through the pattern interference created between the hanging straps and the image above.
We were selected as one of four finalists to produce a proposal through a public RFQ process and were awarded the project based on our proposal. One of the biggest challenges was to create an artwork that activated the length of the 520 foot connector within the budget. Because this space is the main artery between the airport gates, the artwork also had to be suspended to allow for the movement of people. The ceiling height is 12.5 feet which only allowed for 18” of depth for a suspended artwork. Beyond the size and height limitations the main goal of the artwork was to activate a transition space in airports where people typically don’t expect to be inspired or visually stimulated. We took advantage of the narrow and long expanse of the space to create a series of hanging artworks that takes advantage of the focused perspective people have in the space as a way to animate overlapping two and three dimensional material patterns. The vivid two dimensional patterns are made by UV printing directly onto the acoustical tiles and the three dimensional forms are created by hanging nylon straps at varying lengths. Printing on the tiles and using everyday material allowed us to create a series of large suspended artworks along the length of the connector while staying within the budget.
Our initial process was driven by working mockups at various scales that showed how the cloud-like suspended forms would animate the patterns. We used custom developed software to create the patterns and the cloud forms. Once we settled on the forms we went through studies with the contractor to optimize the sprinkler locations in the connector. This required a couple of rounds of back and forth where we adjusted the profiles of the cloud shapes. We worked with the contractor installing the ceiling system to hang the lightweight aluminum frames from the ceiling tile grid and also with a local printer to print the prismatic patterns within the clouds directly onto the acoustical ceiling tiles. We created a series of detailed drawings documenting the hanging points of each cloud and worked with everyone to create a labeling system for the placement of the tiles and then our team installed the aluminum frames and the nylon straps.
The 10 cloud-like forms vary in size from 32 ft. long and 20 ft. wide to 70 ft. long and 32 ft. The curved frame of each cloud is made with laser cut aluminum parts that were powder coated white and spliced together on site. 18,000 linear feet of nylon straps were used to create the billowing cloud forms. The smallest cloud has 112 straps and the largest cloud has 217 straps. The form of the straps is created through gravity. Each strap acts as a catenary curve that hangs from the perimeter of the frame. The length of each strap was determined by a computer model and the straps were cut to precise using a machine that spools, cuts, and heat seals the strap edge based on an entered length.