Forum 64: Cecil Balmond

This exhibition takes place from November 14, 2009 to May 30, 2010 in the Forum Gallery of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. For Forum 64, Carnegie Museum of Art presents H_edge, an installation by designer Cecil Balmond, who has transformed the role of structure and mathematics in contemporary art with his unorthodox and visionary approach that challenges staid definitions of architecture and engineering. 


The principal component of Forum 64 is H_edge, an installation consisting of approximately 6,000 aluminum plates suspended between stainless-steel chains. The plates appear to hang like metallic ivy, but closer inspection reveals that the panels stand from the floor. This “trick” allows for H_edge segments to create a maze-like structure that is surprisingly sturdy and is further animated by light and reflections.


H­_edge appeals to the core historic mission of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh: the advancement of art and science,” said Raymund Ryan, architecture curator at Carnegie Museum of Art and curator for Forum 64. “Furthermore, Balmond achieves the remarkable feat of designing structures that avail themselves of contemporary technology and thinking yet are also inspired by patterns found in nature and in ancient cultures from around the globe.” 


Forum 64 supplements H_edge with a suite of six light boxes that illustrate the principles used by Balmond for such innovative structures as The Spiral proposal for the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (with architect Daniel Libeskind), the 2002 Serpentine Pavilion in London (with architect Toyo Ito), and the Pedro e Inês Footbridge in Coimbra, Portugal. Making reference to a broad spectrum of examples – from Renaissance geometry tomicroscopic biology – each of the light boxes explores a different theme: numbers, geometry, proportion, evolutionary form, time, and equilibrium. Short film clips embedded within the light boxes further elucidate Balmond’s thinking and the myriad influences that inspire his work.


Developed by Balmond and the AGU, H_edge was presented at Artists Space in New York in 2006, built with graduate students at Pennsylvania University. Subsequently exhibited in Louisiana in 2007 and at the Graham Foundation in Chicago in 2008. In Pittsburgh, H_edge will extend like a delicate labyrinth from the Forum Gallery into immediate areas of the Scaife Lobby. The design of H_edge is not merely a feat of assembly. It is predicated on complex mathematical theories of the fractal, Cantor dust, and the Menger sponge. As Balmond explains in short films embedded within the light boxes, the fractal “is a geometric idea that repeats at different scales.” Cantor dust and the Menger sponge are three-dimensional fractals.  


Born in Sri Lanka, Balmond is deputy chairman of Arup, the international design consultancy based in London. Within Arup, Balmond created the Advanced Geometry Unit (AGU) in 2000 to pursue his interest in the genesis of form using numbers, music, and mathematics. He assembled a team of architects, mathematicians, engineers, programmers, artists, and scientists, with the aim of exploring new geometrical and structural concepts. Under Balmond’s direction, the AGU works to develop new typologies for known building programs, as seen in the Pedro e Inês Footbridge, Coimbra, Portugal (2006); the office building Twist, London (2004); the Battersea Power Station Master Plan, London(1999–2007); and the Ranchi Cricket Stadium, India (2008) and their recent design for a museum in the Middle East.    


Since the early 1980s, Balmond has collaborated with important contemporary architects and artists such as Toyo Ito, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Álvaro Siza, and Anish Kapoor. The collaboration between Kapoor and Balmond resulted in the 550-foot-long red PVC sculpture Marsyas (2002) exhibited at the Tate Modern in London. Balmond will be at the Carnegie Museum of Art for a lecture from 3:30pm to 5:00pm on Saturday, February 6, 2010. A reception will follow the talk and Forum 64 will be open until 7:00pm.