Idea Tree, Soo-in Yang / Lifethings



Artist: Soo-in Yang
Title: Idea Tree
Materials: Carbon Steel, Concrete, Polycarbonate, Stainless Steel Cable, Fiber Reinforced Plastic
Fabrication + Installation: Demiurge
Engineering: ARUP
Location: San Jose McEnery Convention Center, San Jose, CA, USA
Dimensions: 40’l x 40’w x 18’h

Demiurge worked with architect and artist Soo-in Yang to fabrication and install Idea Tree. The piece was commissioned by the City of San Jose Public Art Program as part of the renovations to the City of San Jose McEnery Convention Center.  Demiurge and Soo-in worked with a number of consultants and collaborators across three continents, countless time zones and many design changes to bring this piece to fruition within the schedule and budget allotted. 

Idea Tree provides a high profile gateway to the convention center by creating a link between art and technology. The sculpture accepts audio inputs - speech, song, ambient noise - and by interacting with and learning from participants using advanced AI and speech recognition software, these sounds are used to create a dynamic audio composition. Idea Tree is the embodiment of the idea that a convention center is a place where people gather to share ideas and concepts, forming the seeds for these ideas to grow and evolve.

From the Artist
Idea Tree, artist Soo-in Yang’s landmark sculpture for the City of San Jose McEnery Convention Center’s entry plaza, reflects the bold thinking and vision that characterizes San Jose’s place as the Capital of Silicon Valley and the world’s leading region for innovation. Idea Tree is an energetic and layered architectural-scale sculpture providing 1) a point of interaction be-tween the Convention Center and public; 2) a shade structure; and 3) an audio soundscape that the artist describes as a “self sustaining ecology of ideas.”

The central element of the sculpture is a 40’ diameter canopy, supported by three groups of columns which serves as a transitional and interactive space between the street and the convention center entrance. The canopy is composed of six interlocking steel rings with a stainless steel cable system which describes a hyper-toroidal surface. Attached to the cable are translucent polycarbonate leaves silkscreen printed in three colors with a voronoi graphic pattern.

Early in the design process, Demiurge identified the shipping and logistical constraints as being the primary drivers of the fabrication design for the piece. The sculpture was ultimately fabricated as a series of large manifold sections which had several advantages over other fabrication methods. These components allowed Demiurge to test-fit the entire sculpture at our facility in Denver, but easily broke down for shipping and assembly on site.

Demiurge develops specialized jigs and fixtures for every job, and this was no different. We designed and fabricated specialized jigs for each set of components. This system enabled us to accurately repeat cope depth, shape, and size, while carefully controlling deformation due to heat.

Each group of columns was built as a single assembly using a two dimensional template, elevation markings, and our laser tool. These components were then cut to size for shipping which allowed us to maintain tighter tolerances from the baseplate through the copes which joined to the ring structure.

In accordance with the engineering specifications all welds were performed to AWS D1.1 standards. Our fabricators completed a specialized test (PQR) to enable us to not only weld the specified joints, but to do so in a way that maximized efficiency and accuracy.

The sculpture’s location in a seismically active area necessitated rigorous weld specification and extensive testing. As part of this process, Demiurge created an encyclopedic quality control document in order to track the completion and inspection of over 300 welds. Our welding consultant performed both visual and magnetic particle inspections, as mandated by the engineering documents without discovering a single undercut, crack, or flaw. 

Demiurge performed a full fit-up at our Denver studio to ensure that each and every piece fit together as planned. This also gave us the opportunity to do a dry-run of essential installation processes and confirm the logistical scope that was necessary on site. 

After media blasting, the sculpture was painted with a two-part epoxy-based paint, ensuring that the sculpture stands up to environmental stresses and corrosion for the lifetime of the sculpture.

The piece was carefully packed and sent ahead on a dedicated truck while the Demiurge Crew flew to San Jose to meet the piece on site. 

The sculpture was installed over the next twenty days following a series of fabrication plans and processes that we had planned ahead of time.  As in every installation, we were forced to quickly respond to changing site conditions and requirements, but as always, the sculpture was successfully installed and the artist and City satisfied with the piece. 

Demiurge LLC