Using the childlike joy of blowing bubbles to honor the 49 victims of last year’s Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando might seem like a risky move. But it won a national award for a team from UNC Charlotte’s School of Architecture.
“Effervesce,” a sculpture made of aluminum, acrylic, bubble soap and human interaction, goes on display at the American Institute of Architects conference in Orlando this week, then moves to its permanent home at Orlando’s LGBT Community Center.
The project began with a challenge. Each year’s architecture conference includes a contest to design a work that fits into a small space and ties into a theme related to the host city. In Atlanta, for instance, the theme was homelessness, said Marc Manack, an assistant professor at the architecture school. This year’s theme was reflection, and the work had to encourage people to interact with it.
Manack and his team – assistant professor Rachel Dickey, students Claire Shue and Jon Warner, and McKenzie Canaday and Alex Cabral from the school’s fabrication lab – decided to encourage reflection on the mass shooting at the gay club in Orlando in June. They wanted to combine gravity and joy. Eventually they submitted a plan for a clear structure with 49 vessels embedded and etched with the names of those who died. Participants would figure out how to blow bubbles, while seeing someone else do the same on the other side.
Over spring break in March, they learned they had won.
“You go, ‘Yes!’ Then you go, ‘Oh no …,’ ” Manack said. The win meant they’d have to build their vision, and quickly.
The bubble-blowers were the most challenging. Canaday designed “irises,” reminiscent of the aperture on old cameras, that open with a coating of soap and allow a breath to send iridescent orbs floating.
Plan A was to finish Monday, early enough for a public demonstration by late afternoon. But with crucial pieces of polished aluminum still in the shop (the group turned to alumnus Jim Warren of Iconix Metal Works for help), Plan B was an all-nighter to have “Effervesce” ready to hit the road Tuesday.
But when the drop-dead time came, the sculpture was still incomplete. So it’s on to Plan C: Take it to Florida in pieces, assemble it on site and hope that Charlotte’s work shines before the nation’s architects.