How to make a monster, and other bed-time stories... / by LW

Earlier in the year I proposed a work for an outdoor sculpture exhibition on the Victorian coast, to be held in October. I was very lucky to be accepted, and was particularly excited about making the proposed work.

And then, as I began to work on it, I realised just how great a task I had set myself.

The work will be a tidally driven lever. It will lift water up into the air. With the current dimensions, it will require about one hundred and fifty kilograms of weight in the weighted float to lift twelve litres of water into the air.

Below are screen shots from the last few months of building this behemoth in the computer. There have been about five major designs, and within each of those several incremental design alterations. It is almost there. The next step is for it to go to my engineer, to be put through all sorts of programs to ascertain whether it can actually survive the open ocean. And I will then have to gut my studio to be able to assemble a piece which in total will be about seven metres long by four metres tall by six metres wide, and will weigh close to a tonne (the concern being that my studio isn't actually that large...) The construction will happen as soon as I return from Sydney, in the two weeks before installation. And then installation will require a good team of the best (with a substantial amount of muscle – any takers?) to get it in place. I really should get onto designing the LW install team uniforms that were suggested recently... although they will probably need built-in wetsuits!

It is going to be mammoth task. And it is scary making a work that cannot be tested in any meaningful way prior to installation. But I am still excited about the potential outcome. I really hope it works.

The proposed action, mounted on the side of the pier. The long lever is about seven metres in length.

Simple early geometry, April 2011.

Aesthetic beginnings.

Aesthetic progressions.

Version 2 or 3. I took this to the engineer and he was concerned as to its strength. Back to the drawing board!

At one point I decided to make a double lever, with each lever set on different tidal increments, in order to compensate for tidal differences - see image above and below. However, I did some figures, and realised I just couldn't afford to make two entire levers. I'm actually happier now with the idea of compromising with the ocean - the impact of different tidal variations is inherent to the work, and should be respected. Working with what is there, rather than trying to compensate for it, feels significantly more honest to the work and to its site.

Testing geometry for double lever on actual tidal lines.

Simplifying the design to reduce cost. Even with this simplified design, estimates came in many thousands over budget.

Detailing brackets.

Simplifying even further to reduce cost and production time.

The current design, August 2011 - fully assembled with frame to attach to pier. As soon as I generate actual drawings from this, it will be going to the engineer. Hopefully in the next day or so. Maybe I should actually paint it red and blue?

Where my head has been for the last couple of months... in this world of wire frames!

Current design neutral position.

Current design low tide position.

Current design high tide position.

Current design, detail of main lever.