Graduate Hotels partnered with Chicago-based artist Hebru Brantley and Bridgewater Studio to design and fabricate the largest commissioned sculpture of Hebru’s Flyboy for its hotel Graduate Roosevelt Island. Crouched behind the check-in desk of the hotel holding a giant neon lightbulb, this larger than life sculpture defines both brands' eclectic and over-the-top styles.
This sculpture would become the anchor for the 5000 square foot lobby of the hotel. Our challenge was to make it seem like Flyboy’s curiosity had led him to sneak into the hotel to explore this exciting space. Careful consideration had to be taken for building infrastructure, lobby amenities, power requirements and install conditions. We worked closely with the hotel project managers to solve for these inevitabilities.
Let's talk about the process. This project had many challenges. First of all, the whole scenic design was to be viewed from a full 360 degrees. Secondly, the elements needed to be lightweight but strong. Installing anything from hanging points 135-feet in the air is not easy. How does one begin to make gargantuan amphibians?
After the rough pose and install location were approved, we 3D scanned an existing Flyboy figurine to capture the most accurate representation of Hebru’s iconic work. From there we were able to rig and pose the 3D model to meet the artist’s vision. Our digital workflow allows us to make changes quickly and get renderings in front of clients faster than traditional techniques. 3D printed scale maquettes were also produced for review from the digital models. We would eventually use these files to carve the full-size sculpture. This method ensures that what you see is truly what you get.
Well, we actually worked with anatomically-correct 3D models of these critters. As a result, we were able to “dissect” the frog shapes virtually, 3D carve them on our CNC router, then reassemble the parts back into their final shapes. Luckily, custom-engineered tooling allowed us to CNC carve in 12″ thick sections!
Once the final sculpt was approved, the model was handed off to our engineering and CNC departments. They sliced and manipulated the 3D data to allow for a structural steel support skeleton, cable chases for the lightbulb and shipping breaks that would be completely hidden when assembled. The full-size sculpture was then machined on our 7-axis Kuka robot cell. As carved parts came off the robot they were assembled around the steel armature and sprayed with a polyurea hardcoat. Weeks of hand sanding prepared the surface for an automotive paint finish with a durable fluoropolymer topcoat. We carefully checked the fit of each part and fully assembled the entire sculpture in our studio prior to final install.
Finally, we were up to the challenge of installing the frogs from hanging points 135-feet in the air. After two nights of careful installation, we were able to create full exposure for these frogs without using specimen pins.
Given the challenging nature of working in a confined space with ongoing construction we rehearsed the install before anything shipped. We worked closely with the hotel’s GC on our installation plan to ensure everything went smoothly once we arrived. The entire install process took less than three days from un-crating to cleanup.