Tears, not a natural disaster or pipe burst, have flooded the 55,000 square foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall at Park Avenue Armory. Award-winning artist Douglas Gordon's installation Tears Become...Streams Become... involves ten piano performances by Hélène Grimaud, during which two inches of water come up through the floorboards to create a perfect mirror image of two grand pianos, reflecting the majestic lines of the expansive hall's ceiling in the indoor lake, according to The Creators Project.
After several avenues of thinking on how to properly achieve the effect, the Armory went to Arup, an architectural and engineering firm. Arup came up against three challenges: the uneven Drill Hall floor, the buoyancy of water and its effect on floorboards, and the humidity from the water, which could harm the pianos, according to Wired.
According to The New York Times, construction company Muecke laid a single sheet of plastic on the floor, placed particulate board over that, and then six sections of a heavy plastic pool liner over that, sealing it off with a blowtorch. To level the floor, workers laid 7,000 cement blocks at particular points on the floor, aimed laser beams at them, and then leveled the floor to within an eighth of an inch with shims. Finally, 864 panels of Viroc were laid down.
Beneath the surface of the floor hides nine tanks of water, kept between 50-55 degrees (and the Drill Hall at 70 degrees to keep the humidity in check), that will be pumped during a performance to three tributaries that lead through the three doors at one end of the hall. After the performance, the pumps suck in the water and workers mop up the last of the moisture.
Grimaud will perform on ten separate evenings until December 21, and Gordon's installation will be on display until January 4. For the full articles, visit The Creators Project, Wired, or The New York Times.