Magic Hour

Submitted by Matthew A. Heckendorn

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Client: New Mexico State University

Location: Las Cruces, NM, United States

Completion date: 2013

Artwork budget: $370,000

Project Team

Client

New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

Architect

Holzman Moss Bottino & ASA Architects

Holzman Moss Bottino & ASA Architects

Other

Kohler-Ronan LLC Consulting Engineers

Kohler-Ronan LLC Consulting Engineers

Other

Architectural Engineers Collaborative

Architectural Engineers Collaborative

Other

Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design, Inc.

Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design, Inc.

Other

McCarthy

McCarthy

Other

Carver Electric Co.

Carver Electric Co.

Other

Valley Fire Protection

Valley Fire Protection

Other

Acoustic Dimensions

Acoustic Dimensions

Art Consultant

Kate Kaman

HumanKind Design

Art Consultant

Matthew Heckendorn, AIA, LEED AP

Heckendorn Shiles Architects

Art Consultant

Lighting Design Collaborative

Lighting Design Collaborative

Art Consultant

Peter Albrecht Company

Peter Albrecht Company

Overview

“Magic Hour” is a 1,500 square feet, three dimensional mural at the New Mexico State University’s Performing Arts Theater. The mural, painted on concave ceiling planes, narrates the colors and history of New Mexico and the cultural heritage of dance performance. Custom designed and constructed light fixtures, along with a hoist system, are integrated into the artwork so that the light sculptures emerge from the painted theater ceiling, raising and lowering just as the rising and setting sun over New Mexico. The mural utilizes non-woven media, acrylic, silk, steel and electric hoists.

Goals

“Magic Hour” was borne of the desire to transcend a two dimensional ceiling mural with goals of adorning the theater while not impeding the stage. Integrating the artwork into the project was a fundamental design priority. The curved ceiling was imagined as a medium for visitors to experience the magic of theater beyond the confines of stereotypical "stage". The mural’s fusion of canvas and technology renders the building itself as an extension of the stage productions; it is the constant performance art within the Theater, creating a bit of magic by channeling art and architecture together - what is real, what is sculpture, what is paint? Does the ceiling curve or is it an illusion? The abstract depiction of the rising and setting sun, the colors of the desert, the visual history of local tradition “performs” above stage and seating. Importantly, the unique lighting hoist system, that undulates as the sun rises and sets, was specifically designed to allow for the fixtures to raise to maximum clearance height for optimal lighting requirements during performances. The entire mural design - both artistic and architectural - compliments and heightens the theater experience.

Process

Art design, fabrication and installation of “Magic Hour” commenced after the base design for the Theater had been completed and construction was underway. Publicly-bid construction contracts increased the level of coordination and communication necessary. Heckendorn Shiles Architects and Meg Saligman Studios approached the project as a fluid integration of Meg’s art and HSA’s project management expertise. HSA utilized the BIM (Building Information Model) - initially created by the Theater Design team (led by Holzman Moss Botino) – to meticulously model building elements and eliminate impediments to the mural features and installation. Careful modeling of theater light beam projection, hydraulic spray of side-wall sprinklers, maintenance clearances of the electric hoists utilized to raise and lower the light fixtures, and three dimensional surface ‘penetrations’ such as sprinklers, hoist cables and structural catwalk supports, was necessary for the Art Project Team to adequately coordinate with the construction underway and to procure permitting approvals from various regulatory agencies in New Mexico. Extensive design modeling, documentation and communication allowed the painting of the mural to occur in Philadelphia by one team with final seamless installation in New Mexico by the overall construction team.

Additional Information

Geographic locations of project collaborators increased challenges to the realization of the project. The entire Art Project Team of artist, architectural coordinator, lighting design and fabricator, all are situated in the Greater Philadelphia area. The project site and construction team were local in New Mexico; the theater design architect was a NYC firm; structural and electrical/mechanical engineers were based in Connecticut and Texas; the hoist system design and fabricator was based in Wisconsin, and the theater consultant was in California. The geography of the various team members required meticulous communication and a unique level of trust.