Location: Hackensack, NJ, United States
Completion date: 2020
Artwork budget: $300,000
Cynthia Byrnes Contemporary Art
Cast in Ductal ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC), this set of three sculptures fills a large public space in a new commercial building in Hackensack, NJ. The three sculptures contain the same components, but I varied each by changing the relationship of the inside to the outside form.
My client’s aim was to bring ‘museum-caliber’ work to their project, to introduce a set of contemporary, unique focal points that would draw people to the sitting areas around them, and to activate the space.
The material, UHPC, is extremely strong, resilient, and low-maintenance, all requirements for organic, thin forms such as these, situated in a public setting. The surfaces are polished to a satin finish, catching and gently reflecting the natural and artificial lighting in the space. They are also coated with a hydrophobic covering to further resist staining and graffiti.
My client wanted a trio of substantial, yet graceful forms for the large, public space at the center of their new building in Hackensack. The space would also serve as a relaxation area for visitors, with seating, a water feature, and indoor plantings. Because the sculptures would be in contact with the irrigation for these plantings, they had to be made in a weather-proof material, despite being sited indoors. The building would also have a unique, sculptural ceiling, which needed to exist in complement to the sculptures, rather than in competition with them.
As I began developing a series of proposals for the space, other concerns and goals arose during discussions, such as the the preservation of certain key view lines. Physical and then virtual models were crucial to addressing these and the original concerns, and to ensuring that all project goals were met.
Throughout the 2+ year project, my team stayed in close contact with each other and with the client’s team (owner, PM, architect, landscape architect, and CM). As the artist, living across the country from the site could have presented challenges, but having my team’s PM an hour's drive from the client was hugely helpful. Between us we made several in-person and virtual site visits, and held regular calls with the client’s team.
This close contact helped avoid numerous potential problems, including confusion surrounding the dimensions of the access point for the sculptures (nothing beats in-person use of a tape measure), which could have resulted in the sculptures not fitting into the building.
We made use of both physical and digital tools (maquettes, material samples, 3D models, and virtual placements) to help communicate and move seamlessly from scoping to the design and material selection phase, then to engineering, fabrication, and installation.
This being my first major project with UHPC as a material, my relationship with the fabricator was particularly key. There were many firsts for both of us, and being transparent with each other and proactive in communication and deadlines was important to ensuring a smooth process and great result.