Going with the Flow

A new installation – part sign, part sculpture – graces New York City.
Flows Two Ways transformed a former open space into a monumental public art space, creating an inspirational meditation spot along the Hudson River.

Flows Two Ways, designed by Stephen Glassman Studio, (Los Angeles) is public-space artwork installed on Manhattan’s West Side as an “entrance hanging” to VIA 57 WEST, a recently completed mixed-use/residential urban complex. The artwork and the residential complex were commissioned by the Durst Organization (New York), a commercial/residential real estate company.

At first look, the artwork appears as an abstract montage of colorful vertical tubing combined with a series of interlocking textured aluminum background plates covering the building façade. A closer study reveals that the artwork pays homage to its neighboring Hudson River flowing along the west side of Manhattan. The river is also a tidal estuary with the convergence of its fresh water streaming from upstate New York, then bumping into the salty tidal surges of the Atlantic Ocean, hence the artwork’s title.

The eight-story artwork on the façade of the Helena building greets residents and visitors entering the Via 57 West complex. While Flows Two Ways is a public art statement, its building placement required sophisticated sign installation techniques to position its massive structure. American Signcrafters (Islip, NY) performed the challenging installation.

According to Tom Garatina, American Signcrafters’ business manager, “Normally, when we put a sign together, it’s in one or two pieces if it’s a really big sign. In those installations, the signs go up one way, attached to either a pylon or a building wall. Flows Two Ways was very unique in its installation as it was put together like a gigantic aluminum jigsaw puzzle. Overall, there was a 60 x 60-ft., stainless-steel horizontal mounting grid; 16,000 ft. of multi-colored aluminum tubing; and 35 aluminum artwork panels, and faceted metal ‘boulders,’ – all which had to be perfectly hung on the supporting grid structure.” Due to these complexities, the project was divided into five phases.

STEP ONE: INSTALLATION PLANNING

To begin the project, American Signcrafters acquired the initial work drawings and master plan from Stephen Glassman Studio to review and plan the strategy of assembling Flows Two Ways. This guided the process of attaching the stainless-steel grid to the building façade and following that, installing the artwork piece by piece in a numerical sequence on the building wall grid.

STEP TWO: FAÇADE PREP

The team began by preparing the building façade for the steel grid by marking all the points where epoxied anchor rods were located in the building wall. These rods were placement points for the primary plates on which the steel grid structure would be attached to the building wall. Once these plates were in place, a laser survey was initiated to define the primary plates’ exact positions and transform them into CAD drawings for attaching the steel grid on the building. At that point, secondary “sliding” plates were then put in place to accommodate thermal expansion of the artwork.

STEP THREE: ERECTING A STEEL GRID

The steel grid, which was also designed by Stephen Glassman Studio, was a 60 x 60-ft. horizontal grid divided into seven sections. Each grid section was brought to the work site one at a time and attached to the primary plates on the wall. Once completed, the artwork panels followed for installation on the steel grid.

STEP FOUR: ASSEMBLING ARTWORK PANELS

Using an overhead Skyhook crane, the wall sculpture was assembled as a gigantic aluminum jigsaw puzzle.
Using an overhead Skyhook crane, the wall sculpture was assembled as a gigantic aluminum jigsaw puzzle.

The sculpture comprised 35 textured aluminum panels assembled in a specific order of vertical columns, one section at a time. This required very tight tolerances between each artwork panel to achieve the desired final alignments.

STEP FIVE: INSTALLING ALUMINUM TUBING

Another art feature was its aluminum tubing with nearly four hundred 60-ft. rolled pipe clusters, which was an integral part of the sculpture and was also placed segment by segment on the grid.

In commenting on Flows Two Ways, Glassman noted its visual presence as a symbol and celebration of Via 57 West development’s transformational spirit by architecturally transforming a previously opaque concrete shear wall façade to become vertical open space. Finally, as a meditation and homage to the river, he stated, “Flows Two Ways stands as a symbol of an ongoing multi-generational commitment to a clean, sustainable and diverse Hudson River and the city it shapes.”

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