Location: Philadelphia, PA, United States
Completion date: 2023
Artwork budget: $450,000
‘Connected’ is a monumental sculpture, made of 1440 figurative components, celebrating the human element and global nature of Air Products: Togetherness, Diversity, Connectivity, Humanity.
It represents the artists’ expression of human interconnectivity, in one powerful installation.
Utilising molecular structures to create a spherical form, this circular shape alludes to our planet, as well as the cohesive workforce of Air Products.
Sculptural components celebrate the strength of human diversity, in variations of body shapes.
These figures are enhanced by geometric parts, in multiple textures and shades of gold, each character connected to become one dynamic unit of strength, vigour and harmony.
The project brief was to create a site-specific aerial installation for the new global headquarters of Air Products, located in Allentown, PA, USA. The client was particularly keen to convey the human elements of the company for the entrance piece. As they explained, the company is continually growing and developing new technological solutions, but the permanence of the human qualities remain constant.
The goal was to create a piece that would relate to Air Products through a narrative or story, thereby enabling a sense of connection for the staff, clients, and visitors. It was also important to complement the interior design scheme and work within the architectural context, while providing a strong focal point.
In addition, we wanted the very visible elements of the company to be celebrated in the artwork. Air Products is a global company, and it was essential to express the idea of diversity in the piece. We felt that one dimension often excluded from the diversity and inclusivity conversation, is in fact, body shape. Therefore, as the artwork evolved, inclusivity in body type became an additional driving force, in both the aesthetic and holistic aspects of the piece.
The commissioning process began with an artist competition for the aerial sculpture installation. The client issued a comprehensive brief, which included their company background, the architectural and design objectives, and an inspiring story for the lobby space.
From the outset, an ongoing exchange of ideas among the core multidisciplinary team was explored. We welcomed continuous conversations and valuable input, both artistic and technical, from the client, architect, engineer, fabricator, and art consultant. Each member of the team brought an area of expertise that resonated throughout the various stages of the commission.
The collaborative process was particularly important during the Covid period, where we found the positive engagement and frequent communication within the team became vital to the project. In addition, the project involved an international team of participants from a multitude of countries in four different time zones!
Persistence, patience, and a collaborative and respectful environment kept us together to produce an outstanding result.
The sculpture was fabricated by MDM Props in London under the skilled direction of Karim Attoui. More than 10,000 components make up the piece, which measures 4 meters (13.12 feet) in diameter and is constructed of a cast aluminium inner structure, which is populated with 1440 cast aluminium human figures. The moulds for the structure were 3D printed in Germany and cast in the UK. The pattern for the bodies was 3D printed and cast in Lebanon, where craftsmen utilised traditional casting techniques when high-technology methods were unable to produce the desired result. Throughout the project, environmental measures were taken to reduce waste by employing virtual renderings, minimising mock-ups, and the use of recycled aluminium for the cast bodies. Great care and attention was placed within the design, to ensure the ability to disassemble and recycle in an environmentally friendly process, at the end of its life.