Building Infinite Possibility

Brown University Sculpture
Project Manager
Jan '17 — Jan '20
project management // student project
David Schurman + Linda Park + Ethan Mok + Emma Abele

Infinite Possibility is the only student-designed piece of public art on Brown University's campus. The goal of the sculpture was to commemorate the completion of Brown's new Engineering Research Center with a sundial that would remain as timeless as the building itself. Over the course of three years, I co-led the design and development, as well as the management of the fabrication and installation of the sculpture.






Concept Pitches
Finalized Design
Sundial Research
Alignment Analysis
Fabricator Relationship Establishment
Fabrication of Timepiece

Concept Development

In the fall of 2016, a Brown alumnus approached the School of Engineering with the idea to sponsor a student designed timepiece sculpture to accompany the new Engineering Research Center (ERC). This idea was inspired by The Long Now, a 10,000 year clock being built into the side of a mountain, as well as a wide range of kinetic sculptures. Timepiece ended up in the hands of Brown STEAM (STEM + Art) because of the group's focus on interdisciplinary projects and collaborative thinking.

The main requirements determined by the alumnus, the School of Engineering + Brown Public Arts Committee, and our student design team were: 

Brown STEAM is a student organization dedicated to fostering interdisciplinary projects and education.
  • The sculpture had to mark the passing of time somehow
  • The sculpture would last at least as long as the ERC
  • The sculpture must be low maintenance
  • The sculpture must fit within the larger public arts portfolio of the school
  • The sculpture must lend itself to interactability and appeal to students from all over campus, not just the School of Engineering
The project began as an open call from STEAM to the Brown student body regarding an opportunity to become involved in the school's first student designed public piece of art. My role during this period was focused on guiding ideation and exploration on how time can be measured, and communicating these ideas to the Public Arts Committee, School of Engineering, and the alumnus.​

After a semester of design development, four ideas were proposed by four different student teams. The final Mobius strip idea was selected because it met all of the criteria outlined at the conception of the project, and was popular among students in group review sessions. It was also the only idea that did not rely on kinetic parts to tell time, which made it appealing from a maintenance and durability standpoint. Part of the appeal behind this concept is that it is essentially a sun dial and is able to passively tell time. Once the concept was decided, though, we had to investigate how exactly we were going to turn the design into reality.
From the top left: 1) Solid Ripple marks the passing of time using incredibly slow moving concentric rings. Different times of day result in different configurations 2) Mobius Strip is a timeless design that reflects on sustainability and infinite continuity 3) Petal Gathering Space is a rotating platform that provides a space for students to sit and interact with each other 4) Folding time is a series of panels that can be rotated into specific configurations depending on time of day and year.

Sun Dial Mechanism

We spent the following summer working with the sun dial artist Bill Gottesman to understand how exactly time is measured using the sun in order to determine the best time telling mechanism for Timepiece. We quickly discovered that the green space in front of the Engineering Research Center receives a limited amount of sunlight during the day, so an hourly sundial was not possible. Instead, we experimented with various noonmark analemma variations. The noonmark denotes the sun's position in the sky at noon every day, which coincidentally also happens to be a 2D infinity loop. ​
Some sketches I created that explored various ways the noonmark could be incorporated into the mobius shape.
(Left) Shadow analysis of the ERC at noon used to determine the best location for Timepiece. (Right) The analemma diagram that was etched onto Timepiece.
Another problem we encountered was daylight savings. We had to make the decision between whether we wanted the analemma to align with the sun at noon during Standard Time or Daylight Savings Time. While having the analemma align at noon during EST might seem like the logical decision, we decided that EDT made more sense for two reasons. The first is that EDT makes up a larger portion of the year (March-November). The second reason is because the spring, summer, and early fall are when most visitors come to campus and can see it align at noon, whereas there's mostly only students around in the winter. While having students interact with the sculpture was one of our main goals, none of us expected anyone to use Timepiece as a time telling method between classes.

I just hope that if Daylight Savings is ever abolished in the United States, we don't revert to Standard Time or else the sculpture will become a permanent 11-o'clock-mark...
(Top Left: Courtesy of Kenji Endo) Simulation of our CAD model using annual solar azimuth and zenith data for Providence, RI. (Bottom Left) A physical prototype of the noonmark. (Right: Image courtesy of Nick Dentamaro/Brown University) Team photo with one of our physical prototypes.


Once we finalized the shape and time telling mechanism, we reached out to fabricators for estimates. We ultimately decided to partner with Sultz Fabrication because of the enthusiasm they expressed in working with a student group. Sultz was able to conduct the structural analysis review and validate the integrity of the design.

One of the challenges they faced with fabrication was the precise nature of the sculpture. Our own test revealed that even the slightest difference in angle between our CAD model and physical prototypes could severely mess with the accuracy of the analemma. Sultz's solution to this problem was to use a CNC stairway rail bender to bend the steel tubing of the frame exactly as needed.

We also partnered with renown glass artist John Lewis to create the base pillars for the sculpture.
Visit to Sultz Fabrication to view the workshop space and test different steel sample finishes.
(Left) Breakdown of all the CNC bent pipes used for the sculpture frame. (Right) Picture from our second visit to the Sultz workshop. I remember staring at the frame in awe for a solid 20 minutes as I realized 1.5 years of work was being actualized.


Snapshots of the crane lowering Infinite Possibility onto its foundation (Images courtesy of Nick Dentamaro/Brown University)
After nearly a year of fabrication, the piece was ready for installation in April 2019. Timepiece, which is officially titled Infinite Possibility, was brought up from Dobbs Ferry, NY to Providence, RI using a specialized moving company, and installed in front of the ERC using a crane.

Installation was not without its issues, however. Upon initial alignment. we realized that one of the foundational pillars that had been installed several months prior was two inches lower than the other, ruining the alignment of the sculpture. Because there are no straight edges and very few quality reference points on the mobius strip, I spent the next few months gathering data and extrapolating the exact amount it was misaligned by.

By January 2020, we were able to precisely adjust the sculpture, and it now sits fully installed on the Giancarlo Plaza in front of the Engineering Research Center.
(Left: Image courtesy of Brown School of Engineering) Infinite Possibility sitting on the Giancarlo Plaza. (Top Right: Image courtesy of Nick Dentamaro/Brown University) Misaligned marker on the analemma after initial installation. (Bottom Right) Student designer signatures etched onto the bottom of Infinite Possibility.


I spent three of my four years at Brown constantly channeling my energy into Timepiece. There were often frustrations, miscommunications, and many mistakes encountered along the way. However, this project single handedly taught me more about the design process, large scale project management, and stakeholder communication than any other class or job I've had. Working on Timepiece has shaped much of my current work ethic, and will forever be an integral part of my time at Brown.

I am excited for the day several decades from now when I get to visit Brown and reflect on this monument to the time and energy I dedicated to the school I love.
Official Brown University
Press Release
How could I *not* take a graduation picture on the single most defining aspect of my time at Brown?