Aleatoric Music for One Hundred and Forty-Six

Location: West Village, New York City

Client: Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition

Scope: Installation (Competition)

Program: Memorial

With the hundred-year anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, a watershed industrial accident in New York City's West Village in which 146 garment workers died, a competition was held to design a memorial for the victims.

To mark the rather anonymous spot of this tragedy, we felt that the memorial needed to encourage passersby to pause, and to draw their attention up to the upper floors from which many of the victims jumped to their deaths. In addition, we wanted to extend the awareness of the memorial beyond the immediate intersection.

There has long been a tradition of ringing bells to memorialize the fire - we proposed an installation of 146 chimes, pipes and bells hung at the level of the 8th floor that viewers could "play" by means of cables stretching down to street level that would mechanically activate the memorial (we were fortunate that NYU, which owns the building, also owned all of the neighboring buildings, so support cables could be strung across the street). The activation of the kinetic sculpture would be experienced secondarily by the neighborhood, a constant reminder and memorial.

We worked with composer Kristin Norderval to develop a way of "scoring" the kinetic elements, so the whole installation could be tuned by adjusting pipe sizes, periods of swing and location of linkages.  The units are tetrahedrons made from welded stainless steel tubing; when concatenated together they create aperiodic helical forms - that is, though they make a helix they never return to the same point.