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  • cradle

    cradle
    santa monica CALIFORNIA

    suckerPUNCH: describe your project.

    benjamin BALL: Commissioned by the City of Santa Monica, Cradle is situated on the exterior wall of an existing parking structure at Santa Monica Place – originally designed by Frank Gehry. The site is heavily trafficked by tourists on foot and in automobiles. An accumulation of mirror polished stainless steel spheres, the work operates structurally like an enormous Newton’s Cradle – the ubiquitous toy found on the desktops of corporate executives in Hollywood movies.


    The project is an exploration of sphere packing. Visually it suggests a giant “package” or banana hammock – the swimming trunks we see on Santa Monica beach. Each ball is suspended by a cable from a point on the wall and locked in position by a combination of gravity and neighboring balls while reflecting a distorted image of passersby both in cars and on foot. An accumulation of mirror polished stainless steel spheres, the work operates structurally like an enormous Newton’s Cradle – the ubiquitous toy found on the desktops of corporate executives in Hollywood movies. The project is an exploration of sphere packing. Visually it suggests a giant “package” or banana hammock – the swimming trunks we see on Santa Monica beach. Each ball is suspended by a cable from a point on the wall and locked in position by a combination of gravity and neighboring balls while reflecting a distorted image of passersby both in cars and on foot.

    sP: what or who influenced this project?

    bB: It grew out of considering the process of building. We were thinking about how to make structures that have an informal logic to them. We imagined how to produce building scaled structures using the logic of poured in place concrete, but rather than using cement, aggregate, sand etc, we used spheres. We sort of poured spheres into a big mold. The spheres are a kind of gigantic aggregate that self forms when poured into the big mold.
    My aim was to create a system that makes this ink come to life.

    sP: what were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?

    bB: Listening. Well, there was the design phase then a fabrication phase. I wasn’t usually out there doing the fabrication, but I can say that James Jones, who was the project manager and foreman was listening to a pneumatic staple gun a lot of the time. Prior to that he was listening to a lot of CNC router noise. This is not something any of us at BNS like to listen to, so, within our studio, we built a sound insulated enclosure around the route. This kept us from having to constantly wear earplugs.

    Reading. The project took a while to develop and fabricate so I went trough several books throughout the duration. A Theory of Craft by Howard Risatti Stands out as the most memorable one.

    Watching. Hmm, this gets down to what it means to be an architect versus an artist. As an architect I have to hold my tongue . . . .

    sP: whose work is currently on your radar?

    bB: Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe. Their “Bright White Underground” at Country Club Gallery / Schindler’s Buck House in LA last fall was the best renovation to a work in the modernist canon I’ve seen in years.

    Additional credits:
    photographer Monica Nouwens

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