[ Ball-Nogues ] Cradle_Santa Monica

The Los Angeles-based studio of Ball-Nogues have recently completed their installation "Cradle" in Santa Monica, California. We asked partner Benjamin Ball a few questions about the piece.

Bustler: Was this project a commissioned win?

Benjamin Ball: We received a request for qualifications from the Santa Monica Cultural Affairs Division about doing a two dimensional public art work. The work was to be on one of the parking structures for the newly revamped Santa Monica Place. The building was is part of the complex originally designed by Frank Gehry in the late 70's or early 80's.  We were shortlisted for the project. The project is funded by percent for art - part of the capital improvements on the parking structures at Santa Monica Place. The commissioning process was not unlike most other percent for art projects offered by a municipality. Three or four other shortlisted artists submitted proposals. They chose ours for parking structure Seven and they chose a proposal by Anne Marie Karlsen for another parking structure closer to the beach.

Were firms invited to submit proposals?

I don't know if there were other "architects" per se. There were three or four other artists asked to submit proposals - I don't know if they were architects.

Could you provide a little backstory about the project?

We have been looking into ways of making structures that self form and are super redundant. A type of structure can yield a kind of "informal" arrangement of parts that can't be precisely modeled in a computer and that doesn't require tiny tolerances in order to fabricate it. We studied sphere packing (we probably could have called the project Package for reasons I will explain later). The spheres have to be packed in meat space - one can only approximate their relative positions using software . Software is good for designing the overall shape of the work and for visualization purposes . This is because each sphere is bit different in dimension than all of the others (a consequence of relatively high dimensional tolerances during the sphere manufacturing process). Also, the form work we made to "mold" the overall shape and whose parts were fabricated using numerically controlled machinery, once assembled,  would never match exactly what is in the computer - there are tiny discrepancies that occur during the assembly process. Because the location of each sphere influences the location of every other sphere, there is a very complex set of inputs - it would be pointless to attempt to model that. I think of the project as being a bit like poured concrete, where the concrete aggregate is really big (the size of the spheres). 

The project operates a bit like a giant Newton's Cradle - the toy that can be found on the desks of high rolling  corporate execs (at least in movies). The structure operates according to the same principles as the Newton's Cradle - the vertical loads are taken up by cables while each sphere is held in place laterally by neighboring spheres. Each ball has a single cable; collectively the cables attach to a massive bracket mounted to the wall.

The sphere's are made of mirror polished stainless steel.  From close up, you can see within them hundreds of distorted images of yourself and the City; from afar, by capturing light the polished stainless steel take on the colors of the surroundings.

We wanted the overall shape to elicit quite a few things -   we thought it would be interesting to insert these into the Santa Monica urban landscape. On one hand it sort of looks like a big banana hammock and on the other it resembles the female reproductive system. Sometimes we think of it as a giant fly eye with hundreds of little lenses and at others its like sea foam or coral. Sometimes it an urban scaled wall sconce and at others, a kind of imaginary awning for an invisible storefront.

from  bustler

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