Forty reflective spiraling forms appear to float above the atrium at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Services in the capital city of Doha, Qatar. Completed in 2012, this project marks the fourth significant work produced by Zahner in Doha, and the second produced under the vision of architects Legorreta + Legorreta who designed the building for Georgetown University at Doha as well as the HBKU Doha University Student Center a few blocks away.
The artwork at the heart of Georgetown University was conceived by sculptor Ricardo Regazzoni, engineered by Zahner, fabricated in the Zahner shop, and installed by local installers in Doha under Zahner supervision. Each of the forms measures 38’ long, and the artwork fills an area of 82’ x 131’ over the open atrium.
Collaboration between Zahner and Regazzoni is a match of of kindred philosophies. While Regazzoni works to transform architectural columns and archways into artistic expression, Zahner works to bring architecture into the realm of art. This alignment of sensibilities between the artist and fabricator gave this project a strong sense of direction.
Design Assist for Art: The Regazzoni Sculpture
In late 1990s while working with Frank Gehry on the EMP Museum in Seattle, Zahner coined a term which has become the industry standard for building complex projects: Design Assist. The museum’s complexity required that Zahner work closely with Gehry’s office to develop the design. Design assist was first used to describe this process. Since then, design assist has become widely known as the most intelligent construction method for achieving efficient and cost-effective production of complex architectural projects. Along with frequent partner Metalabs, this process is now being applied to art.
The Regazzoni Sculpture details were developed by Zahner’s think tank of installers, engineers, and fabricators: the Design Assist team at Zahner. This group of engineers and consultants worked together with the artist to develop a system which could meet both the functional and visual standards. The team developed a mockup to test the drawings and construction processes.
From Mockup to Installation: The Regazzoni Sculpture
Regazzoni’s undulating, diagonal forms were extremely intricate, requiring specialized engineering and attention to craft during every stage of their creation: from design, to fabrication, to installation. Working within Regazzoni’s vision, Zahner’s Design Assist team developed specialized details for the connections of each intricate geometric part.
Zahner began by producing a mockup of the artist’s design, providing a model that revealed the connections and provided a template for the components. The design features a weld-less connection system. It was important to eliminate welds so that the mirror-polished surface would be free of any discoloration from the welding process.
The resulting surface minimizes the appearance of fasteners, and weld discoloration. The headless pin system is almost indiscernible to the naked eye, and the connections prove to be every bit as strong as welded joints: each connection is capable of supporting 600 kilos, or five times the hanging sculpture’s weight.
Shipping the Regazzoni
Due to its complex geometry and elongated form, the Regazzoni was susceptible to bending during shipment and transportation. To accommodate for this risk, Zahner designed custom lifting rigs and crating to ensure that the piece arrived at the installation site in good condition. Below is an example of the crating, which was custom-built to efficiently and safely ship the pieces overseas to Doha, Qatar. Zahner is committed to the integrity of an artist’s vision, from the preliminary stages of design to shipment and the final days of installation.
The artist wanted a visual masterpiece with concealed connections, so that each form appears to be suspended by magic. Zahner’s biscuit extrusion is used to attach the metal tendrils to the ceiling.
Building Art & Architecture
Together with the Metalabs art services team, Zahner has completed over 70 public and private works of art for both established and emerging artists. Working with artists has expanded Zahner’s research and development team, which has in turn provided many innovative surfaces, processes, and techniques applicable to both art and architecture. Zahner’s team of engineers and fabricators have proven flexible to many kinds of projects, and have produced works of many scales. Get in touch with to learn about how Zahner can integrate into your project.