Olympic Games Sculpture

3D Measurements Enable Safe Installation of Olympic Sculpture

Projects - 1996 Olympic Statue

As we approach our 15th anniversary in a few months, we are overwhelmed with some of the incredible projects we’ve been privileged to work on over the years. A very early project in the summer of 1995, combined sculptural art and engineering, and therefore seems particularly appropriate to discuss this month during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

The Olympics are not only a showcase of athletic prowess, but also serve as a chance for the hosting city to highlight their cultural scene through art and architecture. In preparation for the 1996 summer games in Atlanta, the Olympic committee commissioned multiple major works of sculpture for Olympic Park.

One of these pieces, called World Events by British artist Tony Cragg, incited much enthusiasm but also a certain concern for safety. The plan for World Events called for the sculpture, a mesh of human figures creating the form of a man holding a ball, to be 26 feet tall. The complexity of the design made for an intriguing example of public sculpture, but at 26 feet tall the committee had to ensure its structural integrity before installing it in Olympic Park.

To ensure the integrity of the final sculpture, calculations needed to be based on a 5-foot tall bronze scale model of the design, also by Cragg. Structural engineering firm Uzun & Case was hired to analyze the sculpture and they turned to engineers at Georgia Tech to help with the project. Given the complexity of the hand-made nature of the piece (the human mesh forms, though similar, were not exact) the engineers could not make their calculations and recommendations with certainty.

After attempting more conventional measurement methods, they found and contacted Direct Dimensions in Baltimore, MD to provide an accurate three-dimensional computer model of World Events. The goal was to use the 3D CAD model with finite element software to perform the structural analysis.

Michael Raphael traveled to Atlanta in the summer of 1995 to perform the measurements using a portable FARO Arm. In just 2 days, he digitized each of the joints of the mesh and captured the dimensional properties for each of the parts within the model. The resulting 3D computer model was then used by Uzun & Case to determine that the sculpture was structurally sound.

The accurate 3D data also provided an unexpected benefit. Based on the data the engineering team noticed an area where a slight change could also lead to cost savings in the creation of the 26 foot tall sculpture.

With the help of Direct Dimensions, Mr. Cragg was able to implement his vision, with cost savings, in time for the opening of Olympic Park.

The sculpture still stands today as a focal point of the park, enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year.