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The Making of the National Building Museum’s Look Here Ceiling Sculptures

Updated: May 27

The journey of bringing architect Suchi Reddy’s vision of Look Here to life through the use of Luminux involved an extensive process that encompassed engineering, production, and installation. It all began when Suchi received her inspiration to create origami-shaped ceiling sculptures using Luminux. This narrative details how Jancik Arts International accomplished the task of fabricating and installing Suchi’s visionary artwork.

Design – 3D Rendering

Rendering of Look Here Hanging Ceiling Sculptures
Rendering of Look Here Hanging Ceiling Sculptures

In close collaboration with Reddymade, their design team employed Rhino, a 3D rendering software, to meticulously visualize the sculptures both in isolation and within the expansive main area space of the museum. Through the implementation of 3D rendering, we gained the ability to envision the concept virtually prior to actual fabrication. This invaluable tool facilitated our comprehension of the sculptures’ aesthetic and spatial qualities from various viewpoints, enabling us to make essential refinements and adjustments in design and engineering.

The Challenge of a Gargantuan Space

NBM Look Here Hanging Ceiling Sculptures

Of particular concern was ensuring that the sculptures were of sufficient size to occupy the grandeur of the museum without appearing diminished by its vast expanse. The museum’s Great Hall boasts impressive dimensions: 316 feet by 116 feet, with a soaring height of approximately 159 feet (equivalent to around 15 stories). The presence of imposing Corinthian columns, towering at 75 feet in height, 8 feet in diameter, and with a circumference of 25 feet, added further to the complexity of a grand scale.

Weight constraints presented another formidable challenge. As 28 structures were to be suspended from motorized trusses, which themselves were connected to the museum’s ceiling, the combined weight could not exceed a total of 5,000 pounds. Furthermore, achieving a balanced distribution of weight throughout the hall became a crucial aspect of our design approach.


Prototype of Luminux Hanging Ceiling Sculpture

The creation of a hanging ceiling sculpture prototype for one of the four distinct shapes, along with an 8-foot-long 3-sided kaleidoscope, proved to be crucial in planning a design and production process that would sufficiently meet the demanding eight-week project deadline. In the final week of April, we suspended the prototype of one sculpture and one kaleidoscope, marking a pivotal milestone in our progress.

Throughout the production phase, we gained invaluable insights that enabled us to refine and optimize both the timeline and the manufacturing. This proved instrumental in enhancing our ability to streamline the production process and meet the installation target in early June.

A Frame of Luminux Hanging Ceiling Sculpture

To alleviate the weight of certain ceiling sculptures, we made the deliberate choice of removing the interior portions of the triangles, effectively trimming approximately 50 pounds per sculpture, all while maintaining their structural integrity. When this weight reduction strategy was extrapolated across the entirety of the project, yielding a total of 21 sculptures, an impressive aggregate weight savings of over 1,000 pounds was achieved.

Cutting: Plasma Cutting of Aluminum with Rivet Holes

Plasma Cutting of National Building Museum Look Here

Our design process involved creating all the panels using Rhino software, which were subsequently converted to DXF format. These panels, made from 11-gauge aluminum, underwent cutting using a plasma cutter.

This cutting process included the incorporation of hanging tabs and rivet holes to facilitate the installation of the .02-inch Luminux mirror panels.

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Routing of Luminux with Rivet Holes

Because the Luminux panels are sensitive to high heat, we opted for CNC routing instead of plasma cutting to preserve their mirror appearance, as the intense heat generated by plasma cutting could potentially damage the Luminux reflective properties.

Jig: A Crucial Assembly Tool

Jig to assemble the National Building Museum Look Here Exhibit

To ensure smooth assembly, we devised a specialized jig that facilitated the precise fitting of each panel before the welding process. This ingeniously designed jig proved to be exceptionally beneficial, as it accommodated all four shapes that were being produced.

Welding of the NBM Look Here Panels

With the panels securely positioned on the jig, welding commenced and continued until the desired shape—consisting of either 16, 20, or 24 panels—was achieved. This meticulous welding process guaranteed the structural integrity and cohesion of the final hanging ceiling sculpture.


Sanding of the NBM Look Here Panels

Once the welding was finished, thorough attention was given to each weld. Grinding and sanding techniques were employed to attain a seamless and polished surface. This meticulous sanding process ensured a smooth finish and facilitated a comprehensive inspection to verify the integrity of the joints.

The Holes Match Perfectly!

At this juncture, we were ready to apply Luminux onto the shapes. The predrilled 1/8-inch diameter holes on both the 11-gauge aluminum substrate and the Luminux panels aligned perfectly. With today’s technology, such a feat is routine.

Applying Luminux – Glue + Rivets

Glueing Luminux to the NBM Look Here Panels

As an essential step before riveting, we opted to utilize a spray adhesive to ensure a consistent and robust bond between the frame and the Luminux panels. This additional measure helped to maintain the desired uniformity and strength in the assembly.

Applying Luminux – Rivets

Applying Rivets to the NBM Look Here Panels

Following the adhesive application, the next step involved affixing the Luminux panels with rivets. To accomplish this, each individual hanging ceiling sculpture form was suspended from the ceiling, providing optimal positioning, so that the riveting process could be carried out effectively and efficiently.

Custom Packaging

Custom Packaging of the NBM Hanging Ceiling Sculptures

Because of the relatively vulnerable nature of the points on each form and the overall awkward shapes, we took measures to create custom shipping structures that would protect against any damage that may occur during transportation and handling.

To achieve this, foam blocks were carefully CNC-machined and affixed to a sturdy plywood pallet platform. Additionally, 1 x 4 cleats were strategically placed to prevent any shifting during transportation and the installation phase as well.


Transportation of the NBM Hanging Ceiling Sculptures

A convoy of three semi-trucks was enlisted to transport a total of 20 hanging ceiling sculptures and 9 Kaleidoscopes from Atlanta, Georgia, to Washington, DC. The shapes with packing material were designed to fit snugly within the trailers, leaving only a few inches of space to spare.

Ultimately, our production efforts yielded a collection of 21 Luminux sculptures, each measuring approximately 8 feet by 7 feet by 7.5 feet, and weighing 200 pounds on average. Additionally, we successfully crafted a total of nine 3-sided 8-foot-long Kaleidoscope features faced inside and out with Luminux. All was beautifully accomplished, with Suchi’s design intent intact, on time, and within budget.

The Results. LOOK HERE.

National Building Museum Luminux Hanging Ceiling Sculptures
National Building Museum Luminux Hanging Ceiling Sculptures

National Building Museum Luminux Hanging Ceiling Sculptures
National Building Museum Luminux Hanging Ceiling Sculptures


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