Monumental Nets

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Janet Echelman and Buro Happold Consulting Engineers have developed a sculptural technique that synthesizes traditional fabrication methods with digital form-finding and rationalization processes to create monumental public sculptures.

This piece was fabricated using the same techniques employed for Her Secret Is Patience. Buro Happold created custom software to rationalize the given shape, conduct form-finding and analysis, and output instruction drawings for the fabrication of the net. The final, doubly curved form is resolved by graduating cell sizes, and by using baiting, a traditional lace-making detail, to move from one net size to the next.

Her Secret is Patience

Her secret is patience, a monumental sculpture installed in Phoenix, Arizona, is the result of a collaboration between Janet Echelman and Buro Happold. The piece is remarkable for its synthesis of digital and traditional fabrication techniques.

Fabricated from multi-colored polyester netting of a type commonly used in commercial fishing nets, the net employs nearly 64,000 meters of polyester twine and is comprised of more than 200,000 knots. Custom software was created by Buro Happold to rationalize the shape, conduct form-finding and analysis, and output drawings to manufacture. Working closely with the net fabricator, Diamond Nets, Buro Happold designed the software to account for the manual process of controlling the net looms, outputting patterning drawings that described knot counts and lengths, and splice locations.

For areas of the sculpture where net-loomed pieces could not capture the form, the nets were spliced by hand using drawings that represented every piece of twine unrolled, with each splice location dimensioned.

Material selection was key to the success of the project, both structurally and economically. In order to resist 144 kmh winds, the material had to be exceptionally strong. The Phoenix site also required consideration of the degradation of the material over time due to UV exposure. Polyester, although not UV stable, was chosen for its high strength-to-cost ratio. This enabled the city of Phoenix to purchase several versions of the same sculpture, which could changed at five-year intervals.

The steel support armature, designed by CAID Industries, is comprised of four massive towers and cables supporting the primary ring, which is approximately 23 meters in diameter. With the steel work already in place, installation of the prefabricated net was a matter of hours from delivery to finished form.

Janet Echelman
64-R Coolidge Street
Brookline, Massachusetts 02446 USA

Ian Keough
Buro Happold Consulting Engineers PC
100 Broadway
New York, New York 10005 USA