The Lighthouse is a collaborative mechanical sculpture. Designing and building this piece taught me how to weave a narrative into a moving machine. On a dark, stormy night, Tentacles emerge from placid waters engulfing a lighthouse. A man trailed by his loyal feline companion rings a warning bell. Woken from deep slumber, the man’s friend throws open the window only to have his ruby red lantern snatched from his hands by a giant golden tentacle.
The sculpture’s main movements include a man circling the lighthouse, an arm ringing a bell, a light beam spinning, birds circling above, and a set of shutters being thrown open. All of these movements are powered from a single electric motor. Two main shafts transfer most of the motion. The center shaft controls the mirror and the shutter linkage while the secondary one spins the birds and powers the ring gear that moves the man around the beacon’s deck.
While building this sculpture, I learned to use a wide variety of machining techniques. Most of the linkage pieces were made from milled aluminium. The metal men and the cats were cut on the waterjet. The shutters and door were etched and cut using a lasercutter. The wooden base was cut on the CNC router. The brass sheetmetal tentacles were also cut using a cnc router due to the waterjet breaking after cutting the cats. The small details throughout the sculpture make the lighthouse shine. Everything from the man in the window’s frightened face to the color of the lantern snatched from his hands was planned. The scattered cats are my favorite part of the sculpture. There are three cats hidden throughout the sculpture.
The lighthouse is now on permanent display in the admissions office of Olin College of Engineering.