What Is The City But The People

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Client: Central Oklahoma Parking and Transit Authority

Location: Oklahoma City, OK, United States

Completion date: 2021

Project Team

Artist

Martin Donlin

Martin Donlin Ltd.

Project Manager

Anton Morton

Kasum Contemporary Fine Art, Inc.

Principal Architect

Anthony McDermid

TAP Architecture

Architecture Project Management

Chris Teehee

TAP Architecture

Project Engineer

Debarun Das

City of Oklahoma City

GC Project Manager

Zachary McGrath

Manhattan Construction Company

Contracted Installer

Jeff Holdridge

Central State Construction

Project Photographer

Steve Voelker

Voelker Photo, LLC.

Video Capture Lead

Victoria Fouke

Scissortail Media

Overview

Polycarbonate and stainless steel suspended mosaic near 30,000 sq.ft. Unified, young and old, some with cellphone in hand and others a cane, the multicolored figures move in parade as a subtle nod to classical artwork processions from the Greek Parthenon Frieze (440 BC) to the expressionism of American Artist Norman Lewis (1909-1979). Cutting the silhouettes into layers of color, Donlin’s composition laces together the squared structure of surrounding downtown city blocks with a keyline of organic Native American symbol inspired lettering and stylized outline of the State of Oklahoma. The beguiling use of local anecdotes lends a clever sense of place to the action of The People as they move rhythmically, forward, in unison. The subjective experience of the static installation is layered more deeply by the impact of ever changing natural and artificial lighting that bring a sense of life to the individual components themselves. At sunrise, from inside the garage façade, you can watch the tiles slowly change from rainbow metal sheens of crystallized bismuth into a prismatic display of luminous glass mosaic. Throughout the day, a tessellation of shadows draws their colors from the tiled wall as the penumbra chases and recedes across the floors in response to the movement of the sun.

Goals

The goal of the project was to create a series of artistic skin walls to wrap the exterior of the Oklahoma City Convention Center Parking Garage and function as a barrier which has a surface that is fifty percent open; allowing natural airflow through the facility. The new Convention Center, Convention Center Garage and Omni Hotel additions round out the East end of the Scissortail Park Complex; which integrates art throughout. The infrastructure was funded through Oklahoma City's Maps III Funding with Public Artwork being made possible by the Oklahoma City Percent for Art Program.

Process

The first undertaking was guiding the original design from solid form into an engineered open format that could be fabricated for installation to meet building code and architectural requirements. To make it possible, we had to rebuild the design, digitally, at scale. The file resulted in over 3.2 billion pixels and nearly 2GB of raw data. The design was overlayed with a template we created to mirror the supporting hardware and open area in the façade. With the template area redacted from the design we were able to start the labored task of combing through 89,000 digital squares to solidify color to each. For several weeks, we swapped colors in the digital design, shipped multiple rounds of tile samples halfway around the globe, built demo models to test light reflection and refraction and had Zoom meetings showing each other tile after tile by sunlight, moonlight and flashlight. The next major feat came in the form of counting the number of tiles in each color. Rather than counting the tiles one at a time, we created a method with an algorithm to calculate color percentages and divide by the total number of tiles to get the number of tiles per color.

Additional Information

Over the course of a month, I transferred sections of the design into blueprint pages that I had templated to architectural specifications, accounting for the placement of every tile and labeling each one with a color code for identification. Delivered in four major sections, the completed master plan summed 115 pages. As installation began as we addressed minor spacing and leveling adjustments. Through daily site visits, as installation traversed the east elevation, we were able to tweak the formula; increasing speed, accuracy and efficiency. The installation rounded the corner from east to south, the lift area was doubled, the manpower tripled and the team reached warp speed. On February 25, 2021, I had the pleasure of joining the installation team at sunrise to motor the swing lift up the western elevation and survey the last of the tiles they would install. This project has astonishing numbers with over 1.5 million components in the suspended design. Comprised of 88,708 4-inch Plexiglas tiles, 33,250 Tons of Concrete, 1,900 Trucks of Concrete, 177,416 Connectors, 354,832 Screws & Nuts, 709,664 Washers, Length of Cables, Vertical – 56,500 ft. / 10.7 miles, Horizontal – 83,848 ft. / 15.9 miles of barrier cables, 510,150 ft. / 96.6 miles of PT cables.