Making the Great Chicago Fire Festival
Zahner-fabricated metal perf used on the Great Chicago Fire Festival.
Earlier this fall, Zahner collaborated with Redmoon experimental theater group on the design of The Resilience Skyline. The project was part of the Great Chicago Fire Festival, an annual festival to honor the city’s resurgence after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The festival includes an annual burning and serves to unite the many neighborhoods of Greater Chicago.
The Resilience Skyline is an artwork composed of vertical metal panels, manufactured in stainless steel, and perforated to appear as part of the Chicago skyline. Organized by Elyse Agnello of Redmoon and Andrew Manto of Zahner, the duo gathered 20 local Chicago architects from 7 local firms to design panels using ImageWall for custom metal perforation.
Developed by Zahner as part of the ShopFloor platform, ImageWall is a perforated panel system designed for interior and exterior applications. The system can be custom-modified to produce a variety of facade, wall, and ceiling systems, or in this case, an artistic backdrop for a live event.
A team of architects gathered at the Redmoon office for a casual design charrette. Designers crafted patterns using ImageWall, which were then fabricated and shipped by Zahner. Among the designers who came together, many were represented by design institutes and notable Chicago architectural offices:
- Jahn: jahn-us.com/
- Gensler: gensler.com/
- Olsen Vranas: olsenvranas.com/
- Valario Dewalt Train: buildordie.com/
- Illinois Institute of Technology: iit.edu/
- Nushu Studio: nushu-studio.com/
- Theaster Gates: theastergates.com/
After creating the designs using ImageWall, Zahner produced the perforated sheet metal at the company’s Grand Prairie, Texas facility. The flat sheets were then shipped up to the Zahner facility in Kansas City where the company’s fabrication specialists formed the panels. Each of the panels was made using Angel Hair stainless steel, a custom surface developed by Zahner for muted reflectivity. The panels were formed into ready-to-install sections and shipped to Chicago.
To install the formed panels, Agnello and Manto designed a simple armature framework which form the structure of the ImageWall panels. The simple structure was fabricated by members of the Redmoon team and installed on site.
During the festival, the panels were raised into place by performers following the burning of the “GRIT House”, a very real symbol of the Great Chicago Fire, explained further on the Redmoon website.
“In Summer 2015, the GRIT activity — Group Ritual Imagining Tool — was distributed citywide to 50,000 youth. Led by a facilitator, youth explored the Fire Festival’s themes of grit, greatness and renewal.
Young people wrote personal statements of their experience of resilience, beginning with the prompts: “I Celebrate…” and “I Overcome…”. Thousands of “I Overcome…” statements were used to clad the G.R.I.T. House that was ceremoniously burned during the citywide participatory spectacle.
The GRIT activity was distributed to youth through Park District Day Camps, After School Matters internship programs, Boys and Girls Clubs.”