Drawing up installation plans for the sculptures of Bern Lohaus

How do you ensure that objects, works (of art or other) or sets are correctly installed in the future without always having to personally oversee the process? The aim of this pilot project was to find a way of creating simple installation plans for five artworks by Bernd Lohaus. Bernd Lohaus (1940-2010) created monumental sculptures. Several of his works consist of huge wooden beams or stones with engraved or written words.

This pilot project came about as the result of a collaboration between S.M.A.K., M HKA and the Bernd Lohaus Foundation.

Problem definition

Background

From 23 June to 6 October 2013 there was a solo exhibition of the work of Bernd Lohaus at MAC’s in Le Grand Hornu. When installing his work it soon became clear that it was practically impossible to set up these works without the presence of people who had been involved with his work. That gave the Bernd Lohaus Foundation the idea of drawing up installation plans so that the works could travel and be exhibited more autonomously in the future.

Desired results

  • Method for registering the various parts of an artwork
  • Installation plans

Method

  1. Choosing a methodology
    1. Looking for a volunteer
    2. Acquiring information about the problem
    3. Getting to work
  2. Registering the artwork’s components
  3. Drawing up the installation plans
    1. Preparation
    2. Use of SketchUp
    3. Fixing the form of the installation plans
  4. Evaluation of the installation plans
Het atelier van Bernd Lohaus
Bernd Lohaus' studio - CC BY-SA 4.0 PACKED vzw

1. Chosen methodology

1.1. Looking for a volunteer

In collaboration with BAM, a volunteer was sought to assist Stella Lohaus with this project.

1.2 Acquiring information about the problem

There are a number of Flemish museums that have works from Bernd Lohaus in their collection, including S.M.A.K. and M HKA. Both institutions were asked how they deal with this installation problem. Apparently, neither museum had an installation plan. Artists don’t usually provide such plans, leaving the museums with questions – especially when the artist is deceased.


S.M.A.K. invited Stella Lohaus and the volunteer to visit the museum to look at this problem. A restorer showed them how she preserved artworks and how condition reports and artists’ boxes were kept for each artwork and artist. The condition file contains a description of the material state of the objects. This is further illustrated with photos of the various ways in which the sculptures have been installed in the past and statements by the artist about his work. This gives museum staff an idea about how to install the work and the philosophy and feeling behind it.

At M HKA the staff work with files and photos of views of the installation.

1.3. Getting to work

Since the museums themselves have questions about this problem, Stella Lohaus and the volunteer began looking for a way to resolve it. For pragmatic reasons they began with the work Eupen. This sculpture consists of nine huge wooden beams and has to be erected with a crane. A good installation plan for this work would be opportune, because the beams have to be positioned in a certain order by a technician. Once the Eupen sculpture had been measured, four other sculptures were also selected: Vivegnis, Villeneuve, Liège and Kassel.

2. Registration of the artwork components

The first problem to be tackled was finding a way of naming or identifying the various beams that make up the artworks. Because the beams can only be written on if this does not damage the object and is not visible to the public, another solution had to be found. A label attached with a string to a beam was not a sustainable solution: there was a risk of the label falling off the beam. As a result the problem was approached from a different angle and the beams were described on the basis of their unique characteristics (e.g. “beam with sixteen grooves”, “beam with iron point”). The beams were allocated a number in the installation plan according to the order in which they have to be erected. For Eupen, Stella Lohaus and the volunteer thought it would be helpful to see the film clip by Hans Theys 2. However, the method in the film clip showed that the measurements were inaccurately carried out, and that deciding on the sequence in which the beams have to be erected on the basis of photos is very unhelpful and leaves room for doubt. So they thought about a logical sequence themselves. The objective was to find a sequence that enabled a work to be installed with as few moves and manipulations as possible.

Iedere balk van het sculptuur krijgt een nummer
Each component of the sculpture is registered with a number - CC BY-SA 4.0 PACKED vzw

3. Drawing up the installation plans

3.1. Preparation

For each sculpture, all the beams were drawn on graph paper. The dimensions and characteristics distinguishing the various beams from one another were clearly indicated on this drawing. On the basis of these sketches, the installation plans were drawn up in 3D.


SketchUp was used for this purpose. SketchUp is software that can be used to make 3D drawings. It was developed at the end of the 1990s as a response to the complicated 3D drawing programmes around at the time. The programme was designed to be used by anyone. The software offers users the option to “play” with their designs. Once a 3D design is finished, it can be turned in all possible directions and looked at from various different angles.

A perspective was also sought to show the layout of the various beams clearly. An architecture student was roped in to help. She recommended a perspective on the basis of the frontal view. However, a frontal view did not show enough of the details. So isometric projection was chosen. With this perspective both the frontal, side and aerial view are shown without too much distortion. Isometric projection is a standard perspective in SketchUp.

How do you ensure that objects, works (of art or other) or sets are correctly installed in the future without always having to personally oversee the process? The aim of this pilot project was to find a way of creating simple installation plans for five artworks by Bernd Lohaus. Bernd Lohaus (1940-2010) created monumental sculptures. Several of his works consist of huge wooden beams or stones with engraved or written words.
Drawing of 'Kassel' © Bernd Lohaus Stichting

3.2. Use of SketchUp

Every beam of every sculpture was drawn in SketchUp and stored as a model. Here too, the distinctive features were clearly indicated. The models of the beams were then combined in an installation plan. Since the models can be manipulated, the 3D sketches of the sculptures can be turned in various directions. Important details which are not visible from the chosen viewpoint can thus be shown from another viewpoint. Aerial views could also be added. These aerial views gave Stella Lohaus and the volunteer new insights into the sequence in which the beams could be put together, which meant that some of the installation plans had to be changed again.

3.3. Fixing the form of the installation plan

The proposed installation plan looks like this:

  • Front page: This contains the title, the year that the artwork was created, the dimensions and an aerial view. This way, the constructors know what the sculpture will look like once it is erected and how much room they will need for it. This aerial view also shows which beam has to be erected first so that the sculpture can be immediately installed correctly in the space. For example, the first beam that has to be laid might be an extremity of a sculpture, but it may also be a middle point. It’s important for the constructors to take this into account if there is only limited space available.
  • A list of tools: Tools, such as a crowbar or support beams are needed for the erection of some of the sculptures. The drawings of the tools were made using photos from Bernd Lohaus’ studio. There is also information on how much manpower is required to install the sculpture.
  • The actual installation plan: The installation plan is a step-by-step plan in which every beam that is added is equivalent to a step. The philosophy behind the installation plans is that as few manipulations as possible are needed to erect the sculpture.

4. Evaluation

Once the installation plans are complete, they will be submitted to construction workers to see whether they are user-friendly and comprehensible. In 2015 there is an exhibition taking place in Paris. Here a number of plans will be used and evaluated for the first time.

Results

Did we obtain the desired results?

  • The installation plans look simple and easy to understand. It is possible to make installation plans without using written instructions. This gets around the language problem when the artworks are travelling internationally.
  • A method was found for registering the various components. On the basis of the distinctive features, the various beams of the sculptures can be distinguished one from the other. Nevertheless the process of registration and installation would be simpler if the artist were present.

Conclusions and points for attention

  • It is a process of trial and error. The longer you work on it, the more insight you acquire. This sometimes means retracing your steps and re-measuring and looking for distinctive features.
  • It takes time to get used to SketchUp, but once you’ve mastered it, it’s extremely versatile. The volunteer needed about ten hours to master the programme. A lot of time and patience is needed when using it. Drawings regularly ‘jump’ when you make minor changes to them, which costs a lot of time.

Author: Nastasia Vanderperren (PACKED vzw)

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