…On Tuesday night, a single performer will hold the vast floor. In an installation conceived by the Scottish conceptual artist Douglas Gordon, the French pianist Hélène Grimaud will perform a one-hour program of works inspired by water, as a controlled flood transforms the hall into a giant, glassy lake. In a slow creep, the water — all 122,000 gallons of it — will occupy nearly 33,000 square feet and, mirrorlike, turn the armory’s ceiling upside down, plunging it into what seems to be a bottomless, liquid-filled space.
At least, that is the idea: “We will be working right up to the wire, because I do not know exactly what will happen,” Mr. Gordon said on Tuesday.
…The engineering firm Arup, which did the Sydney Opera House and is the lead consultant on the new Fulton Center subway project in Lower Manhattan, tried out Mr. Gordon’s “let’s flood the armory” idea on a one-hundredth scale model, about the size of a dining room table, and then, in July, on a section of the Drill Hall floor about one-twentieth the size of the final lake infrastructure, a rimmed floor fed by water pipes.
Three problems had to be overcome. First, the Drill Hall floor is not perfectly level. Second, water is buoyant. The technical team went through multiple samples in search of flooring panels that would not float or bleed. Third, water creates humidity, which is kind to human skin but death to a piano, as Steinway executives pointed out when explaining their reluctance to let their pianos sit for several weeks in a lake….
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