Patterned by Nature

Patterned by Nature is a 90 foot long sculpture installed in the atrium of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science. The sculpture is comprised of 3,600 individual liquid crystal tiles. Together, the tiles act as a huge display that shows abstract visualizations of different patterns in nature such as birds flocking and fluid flow. The technology behind this display is in some ways similar to that found in an old digital watch or a modern computer screen. The difference is that while a typical computer screen has an embedded backlight, this display uses the sun as its backlight. As a result, the entire 900 square feet of display area consumes less than 75 watts of power.

To make this display possible, we needed to design a custom LCD controller board that would allow us to transmit power and packets of data along four steel cables that hold up each section of the sculpture. Each of these control boards has a unique digital ID, and it listens for commands from a host computer to know what patterns to draw on the 20 LCD tiles it controls. The host computer sends out more than 100,000 commands a second to these control boards in order to produce the visual effects seen on the sculpture. 180 LCD control boards are embedded within the sculpture.

Patten Studio created the electronics, firmware and portions of the software necessary to bring this sculpture to life. Many other companies were involved in this project, most importantly Plebian Design, Hypersonic Engineering and Design and SoSolimited.


Credits

Concept
SoSolimited - Eric Gunther
Plebian Design - Jeff Lieberman
Andy Merriell & Associates - Andy Merriell
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences - Roy Campbell
Hypersonic Engineering & Design - Bill Washabaugh

Design
Hypersonic - Bill Washabaugh
SoSolimited - Eric Gunther
Plebian Design - Jeff Lieberman

Content Design
SoSo Ltd - Eric Gunther
Plebian Design - Jeff Lieberman

Engineering
Hypersonic - Bill Washabaugh, Katie Treidl
Plebian Design - Jeff Lieberman

Electronics, Firmware and Driver Software
Patten Studio - James Patten and Laura Wickesberg

Fabrication
The Hypersonic Engineering & Design team
Bill Washabaugh
Katie Treidl
Matt Tyson
Andrew Personette
Jake Oas
Heather Blind
Brett Van Aalsburg
Jamie Foster
Mark Miller
Amanda Parkes
Anne Marsen

Installation
Hypersonic - Bill Washabaugh
Plebian Design - Jeff Lieberman
IATSE Rigging - Greg Osbeck
IATSE Rigging - Jeremy Jackson
Patriot Building Company - Curtis Warren

Additional
Chris Parlato - shape
Jack Daniels - color analysis
Mitch Joachim - color consulting
Geo Homsy - installation consultation
Jeremy Frechette - addional Photography
Jesse Baerkahn - legal
Steve Olejar, Falcon Engineering - PE
David Weiner - lighting

Special Thanks To
Betsy Bennett - North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Roy Campbell - North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Ricky Osbeck - North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
David Small - Small Design Firm
Shaun Miller - Griffin Electrical
Chris Setzer - Clancy & Theyes
Ward Setzer - Patriot Building Company
Al Attara - 33 Flatbush, Brooklyn