Chicago-based design firm Studio Gang Architects, led by architect Jeanne Gang, constructed this towering puzzle piece structure called Marble Curtain. As its title suggests, the architectural piece is a curtain-like draping pillar made of stone. Each of the 620 slabs of stone used in the construction of the piece was shaped using water-jet cutters. Standing at 18 feet tall, the structure hangs from the ceiling of its installation site, weighing approximately 1,500 pounds.
Prior to Marble Curtain's initial installation at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Building Museum in 2003, there had been no scientific information for this method of construction and support in masonry. At the time, the project states, "we chose to explore stone’s structural capacity and challenge conventional thinking about this age-old material by hanging it in tension from the museum’s vaulted ceiling." After much research and testing, the team behind the project found that linking the pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle would render it self-supporting, without any additional frames to hold it up. The structure was only coated with a layer of fiber-resin on the back of each piece for "structural redundancy."
In addition to the remarkable structural composition of the piece, it is quite the sight to look at. Studio Gang utilized the translucency of the fairly thin pieces of stone (3/8" thick) to highlight the beautiful patterns in each puzzle piece by backlighting them. As a result of the lighting scheme, we're treated to this enormous, magical cape.
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