A new installation promoting art and safety is on permanent display in the Crosland Tower on the Georgia Tech campus. Tristan Al-Hadad, a professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Architecture and owner of Formations Studio, was commissioned to create the Crosland Chroma project. The installation around the terraces on the seventh floor of the Crossland was designed for aesthetic and safety reasons. Al-Hadad joined City Lights host Lois Wrights via Zoom to explain how his team’s latest creation serves its space in form and function.
Highlights of the interview:
A field in balance between art and engineering:
“My whole life, my whole career has been a balance between what I would call the technical and the conceptual, and so often we find that those two camps are not really aligned, and sometimes not even in dialogue,” Al-Haddad said. “After all, ideas without substance are just ideas. And that’s fine too, but the way we work and what we’re really after is the material expression, the material actualization of the idea, and that requires this constant kind of dialogue between the conceptual ideas, the aesthetic intent, the perceptual intent, and the technical realities of making; of the material world of physics, of wind, of gravity, of all these things.”
“I describe the Crosland Chroma piece as the love child of public art and public safety,” Al-Hadad continued. “The work is meant to be a truly perceptive piece, an abstract perceptual piece, meant to be experienced, meant to be felt. It’s meant to bring a kind of playful delight… and a bodily experience of being on the terraces and feeling the way the light and the views are constantly changing.”
A visual metaphor expressed through the diffraction of light:
“The piece is made of 192, what we would call ‘dichroic polycarbonate’ fins that twist 90 degrees from the bottom to the top,” explained Al-Haddad. “This dichroic material takes … the pure light from the sun and separates it into a chromatic spectrum. So conceptually what the piece does is talk about, “How do we have an incredible range of diverse ideas coming from the idea of the library as a body of knowledge?”
He continued, “If light is the body of knowledge, then this spectral experience is really the variety of ideas that are captured in the library. And beyond that, the university itself—that we have such a very diverse mindset, such a very diverse student population and faculty population, then it really becomes a representation of diversity in the library and the university as a whole.”
How “Crossland Chroma” ensures safety while preserving the view:
“The piece is on the seventh floor of the Crosland Tower, which is part of the central library at Georgia Tech, and it’s about a hundred feet above the ground, so obviously there are safety issues that people can get to the edge. So the way it works is actually to work as a code-compliant safety fence.”
“These dichroic polycarbonate fins are in line and create a kind of continuous plane up to about 42 inches above the finished decking floor…By the time they get to the top, they’re perpendicular,” Al-Haddad said. “Not only does it create this kind of spectral range that we get when light goes through these little nanotechnology prisms that you can’t really see… It’s a continuous plane and the fence bends 90 degrees to open up, almost to a kind of of dissolving visually and to allow the view back to Midtown because it has a really spectacular view of Midtown and Downtown.”
More about the Crosland Chroma Project at the Georgia Tech Campus Library can be found at www.library.gatech.edu/news/crosland-chroma-project-coming-soon.