Art in the Parks: How to Install a Giant Flower

Just South of Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park some very special flowers are in bloom. Out of the middle of a bed of boxwood and lavender two stems of perfect white orchids with bright yellow centers stand tall. Very tall. Like, thirty feet tall! These steel and aluminum giants are artist Isa Genzken’s Two Orchids. They were installed last week as part of the Chicago Park District’s collaboration with EXPO Chicago.

To a passer-by, it may seem like pieces of art go up in the blink of an eye. In reality, installing a fragile—and heavy!—work of public art is a complex process. Months of planning and preparation lead up to the big day when a team of professional art installers come out to make it all happen.

Lucky for us, photographer Sandra Steinbrecher joined us during the installation on Two Orchids and captured the process in a series of beautiful photographs that we’d like to share with you in this month’s Public Art in the Parks blog post!

All photographs © Sandra Steinbrecher 2017

The piece arrives on a giant truck that drove from Poughkeepsie, New York. A special driver who delivers works of art escorted the sculpture on its journey.

A gigantic crane is used to life the crate containing the sculpture off of the truck bed.

The team of art installers work to dismantle the crate, which was built specifically for this piece of art. Even though the flowers are made of steel and aluminum, they’re fragile and must be handled with care. 

The smaller of the two flowers is placed off to the side so that the large flower can be set down first. The orchid and the structure that it’s resting on remain fastened together until the piece is bolted down to the ground.

The handy crane comes in again to lift the small flower (which weighs around 5,000 pounds) over to the installation site. The orchid floats through the air rather gracefully. 

The concrete base has been marked with the exact spaces where each flower should be set down. The team of installers push and pull the sculpture until it hovers over the right spot and can be set down.

Giant bolts are used to affix the base of both flowers into a concrete base. The orchids are heavy and the wind can be very strong this close to the lake so they must be well attached.

As the final step of the process, one of the installers carefully removes a protective cover from the flowers and stems, finally revealing the magnificent blooms. 

And we’re done! The piece is installed and ready to be enjoyed for months to come. 

And these beautiful flowers will stay in bloom no matter how cold it gets!

Thanks for coming along on this flowery journey. Follow @ChicagoParks on Instagram and Snapchat for insider details on future installations.

Isa Genzken
Two Orchids, 2015
Stainless Steel, Aluminum
7.9′ x 6.6′ x 34′ and 6.8′ x 6.9′ x 28.6′

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