Storm King Art Center Unveils "Lookout" Sculpture: A Fusion of Art and Engineering by Martin Puryear and MIT Collaborators

Storm King Art Center Unveils "Lookout" Sculpture: A Fusion of Art and Engineering by Martin Puryear and MIT CollaboratorsSource: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Benjamin Cortez
Published on October 29, 2023

The Storm King Art Center in Hudson River Valley recently exhibited a new outdoor sculpture titled "Lookout." Developed by renowned American sculptor Martin Puryear, this dome-like brick structure draws upon ancient Nubian masonry skills. Its curvilinear nature intriguingly addresses the complex task of constructing a curved edifice using rectangular bricks. The success of the project can be attributed to a collaborative endeavor, involving contributions from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) faculty, alumni, students, and a combination of Puryear's studio and building specialists.

According to MIT News, the realization of the "Lookout" sculpture was attributed to a yearlong construction process. The cross-functional team applied their skills in masonry, architecture, civil and environmental engineering to encounter the complexities associated with building an entirely curvilinear form from bricks.

John Ochsendorf, a professor at MIT with expertise in unconventional architectural designs, was vital in putting together at the sculpture. Further contributions came from MIT-affiliated individuals like Lara Davis MArch '10, a lead mason and practicing architect, Rebecca Buntrock MEng '10, along with students gathered by Ochsendorf for analyzing and aiding in the development of the structure. In collaboration with Puryear's studio, they collectively delivered what Puryear himself referred to as "a final miracle."

In his statement to MIT News, Ochsendorf applauded Puryear as a "significant builder, craftsman, and maker." Their shared vision inspired the exploration and creation of "Lookout."

The implementation of the "Lookout" sculpture demanded architectural and engineering expertise, coupled with a profound comprehension, to create this building. A crucial challenge involved asserting the right blend of brick and mortar, which required precise tuning to ensure structural stability during construction. Lara Davis played a critical role in creating a natural cement mixture that effectively bonded the bricks in the unique structure.

Prior to advancing with the large-scale sculpture, the team conducted comprehensive engineering evaluations, assessing the structure's stability. These evaluations involved several students, assisting in the project's early digital modeling stage and providing essential data about the required materials and labor for construction.