Courtesy: Joshua White
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Drop-In Distraction

Los Angeles, California

Ball-Nogues Studio (

Southwest Building and Safety Offices, 1330 West Imperial Hwy, Los Angeles, California, 90044
Owner:  Los Angeles County Arts Commission Civic Art Collection (
Date:  2009
Placement:  government office buildings
Artwork Type:  sculpture (visual work)
Material:  steel (alloy), nickel (metal), aluminum (metal), brass (alloy)
Description:  Artists and architects Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues of Ball-Nogues Studio created a suspended sculpture, Drop-in Distraction, for the Southwest Building and Safety Permit Office lobby where engineers, architects and contractors, among others, apply for construction permits. Drop-in Distraction expresses the artists'; desire to blur art and architecture. Composed of over one thousand individual nickel and brass plated bead chains hanging from custom-made aluminum ceiling panels, the work exemplifies the artists’ experimental and inventive approach to sculpture. While light-weight and diaphanous, the sculpture has a voluminous and undulating presence intended to intrigue the waiting clientele.

Ball and Nogues developed custom software to determine the form of the sculpture, manage the chains, and expedite the cutting of the bead chains. This software-generated design made for a simple fabrication process and an efficient installation. In an August 2009 Los Angeles Times interview, Ball explains that they like to produce sculptural forms that enhance the “atmospheric, the sensorial and the spectacular. That's one of the things about architecture; the sensation and feeling that it can incite in the viewer.”

Drop-in Distraction is the first permanent public art commission for Ball and Nogues.

About the Artists: Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues of LA-based Ball-Nogues Studio, began their practice together after having met as Sci-Arc undergraduates. Prior to partnering in business, Benjamin Ball worked for several Los Angeles architecture firms including Gehry & Associates and Ramer Architecture, and Gaston Nogues worked as a product designer for Gehry Partners. As a Studio, Ball and Nogues have completed designs and installations for the New York Museum of Modern Art / P.S. 1, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and Materials & Applications. In the fall of 2008, they were invited to install their artwork, Echoes Converge, at the 2008 Architecture Biennial in Venice, Italy.

Description from Ball-Nogues Studio:

How do we build something that modulates the space of an existing architectural environment while appearing to be made of almost nothing? How do we suggest volume without building a surface?

The first permanent work in our series of “Suspensions” projects, this hanging sculpture for the new Los Angeles County Building and Safety Permit Office uses approximately two thousand individual lengths of metallic bead chains hanging under self-weight to form a matrix of catenary curves. A combination of sculptural artwork and modular ceiling system, the chains span between custom perforated aluminum panels fitted within the existing acoustical ceiling grid. Each chain is in precise relation to its neighbors to yield an array that is more a diaphanous metallic vapor than a discrete solid object. The rhythms of the vapor respond to the location of the lighting fixtures and sprinkler heads on the ceiling grid. When viewed from oblique angles, the installation suggests a volume; from other viewpoints, the effect is of a torrent of falling rain. The color of the bead chain “dithers” from cool nickel plated to warm brass across the length of the permit office.

A challenge for the project was to create a design methodology that tightly integrated concept, computation, fabrication and economics. This approach parallels material based explorations in contemporary architectural practice. As a sculpture and as an example of new processes in design, the work will be of interest to both the staff and customers of the Building & Safety Permit Office. It will be at home in the forward thinking architectural environment of Los Angeles.

We designed software to investigate the form, manage the thousands of chains, and expedite cutting. Formal exploration and revisions are fluid and effortless: rather than drawing and measuring the length of each chain, we sketch the qualities of the installation in general terms; the software then automatically generates the thousands of catenaries, computes their lengths, and prepares labels to locate each chain once cut. The design choices and logistics are “front loaded” to save time by reducing on-site management and fabrication complexity, allowing a small team to assemble the project.

Principals in Charge: Benjamin Ball, Gaston Nogues

Project Fabrication Team: Andrew Lyon, Nicole Semenova, Elizabeth Timme, Gaston Nogues, Benjamin Ball, Ayodh Kamath, Norma Silva, Matt Harmon, Tim Peeters, Jonathan Kitchen, Nicole Kell

Custom Software Development: Pylon Technical

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