Client: September 11th Fund
Location: New York, NY, United States
Completion date: 2010
Artwork budget: $50,000
Erik S. Guzman
3D Fabrication Studio
September 11th Fund
In 2010, Erik Guzman installed the first version of Weather Beacon in the financial district of lower Manhattan via the River to River Project and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council with funding assistance from organizations such as the September 11th Fund, New York State Council on the Arts, The Greenwall Foundation and Fractured Atlas. Weather Beacon is making visible the invisible, particularly the weather. The kinetic sculpture ( 16' x 8' x 8' ) consisting of rotating aluminum discs hold light canons that illuminate and change color (full RGB spectrum lights) based on data received wirelessly from a microprocessor.
The Weather Beacon commission allowed the concept of a beacon, as a visible guiding light to be built to a size and scale that was accessible to those living, working or traveling on foot in the area. Weather data was the impetus for the concept from the mechanical aspects to the all-encompassing nature of weather and light in the environment. Weather as a force of nature always present but not always at the forefront of our thoughts, especially in New York City where traffic, concrete architecture and sidewalks dominate, created an important contrast. The average passer-by could take a moment to unplug, consider their natural surroundings and how technology and art are combining. The installation was just under a year so the seasonal changes from summer to fall and winter all created a different array of colored lights that could be seen from the skyscraper residential buildings and commercial offices surrounding the waterfront. By the time the piece was being de-installed, we were told that to look out the window at the Weather Beacon had become a morning ritual for one family living in the area and to others it was landmark on their daily route.
Technology provided an important core to the entire process of creating the Weather Beacon. From concept to execution and every important design stage in the development, computer aided design, digital fabrication and configuring the data to light visuals with lighting engineer Mark Rosen, were heavily reliant on the ability to test out ideas before committing to the final design. Being able to render out project visualizations to apply for grants, communicate with site organizers and Brookfield Properties who owned the location, was critical. Creating a mechanical sculpture that could day and night wirelessly receive weather data to translate into colored lights and movement that were seamlessly in motion no matter what the weather conditions presented a real challenge that needed precision at every stage. Lower Manhattan Cultural Council worked hard to find a great location for the project. The waterfront location provided a unique context that helped to make the Weather Beacon look even more like some futuristic oracle beckoning back to viewers.
Weather data is just one of the many data sets that works with the Beacon platform. Since it's inception to the present, it is a public artwork that has great potential for any community. One of the fascinating aspects of visualizing data is that data is now gathered in such volume that it has become invisible but omnipresent in our environments. Figuring out new ways to visualize and point to specific issues is an exciting prospect for this project. We are currently trying to find new ways to apply the Beacon platform in public spaces or privately commissioned works.