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Art to Mimic CA High-Rise Tilt Through Sound

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

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A new sound art installation at the San Francisco Art Institute will soon be gracing the ears of San Francisco residents and will continue to be on display until the city’s plagued Millennium Tower is fixed—or collapses.

The artist collective Postcommodity developed their piece, “The Point of Final Collapse,” based on the Millennium Tower’s gradual sinking and leaning. The sounds emanating from the piece are simulated by data collected of the skyscraper’s movements from 2008-17.

The Millennium Tower

Opened in 2008 at the cost of $350 million, the Millennium Tower was designed by Handel Architects, with structural engineering by DeSimone Consulting Engineers. Webcor Builders was the general contractor on the job, according to the Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute.

Almost a decade after completion, in August 2016, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Millennium condo owner John Eng had filed a lawsuit against both the building’s owners, Millennium Partners and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, whose nearby construction may have caused the tower to begin sinking and tilting.

In the complaint, the plaintiff called the building “defective,” and claimed Millennium Partners “knew that the Millennium and Subject Homes were not of marketable or habitable quality." The suit noted that the building sits on a manmade “mud fill” in an area that was once underwater, and asserts that the decision to build on a concrete slab and 80-foot piles instead of piles anchored into the 200-foot-deep bedrock was made “to cut costs.”

The suit also stated that, “over time the building most likely will sink an additional 8 to 15 inches into the landfill” over which it is built, and the tilt, measured at about 2 inches toward the northwest, could also get worse. While, according to the suit, cracking and buckling were also visible in individual units and in the building’s commons area.

By February 2017, a government oversight committee began conducting hearings in an effort to determine what went wrong to cause the building to sink 16 inches and tilt 2 inches. According to reports during this time, Millennium Partners also hired Sage Engineers to investigate the foundation issues and potential solutions.

By July, the tower reportedly sunk another inch, but officials had finally reached a possible fix, should an agreement be reached. According to the LERA firm and DeSimone Consulting Engineers, the problem could be both stabilized and somewhat reversed by adding 50 to 100 new piles down to the bedrock, beginning from the building’s basement. Each individual pile would be 10 to 12 inches in diameter, noted the Chronicle. The estimated price tag for the repair was reported to be between $100 million and $150 million range, although some experts feared it would exceed $1 billion.

However, by April 2018, another proposal fix was introduced: drilling holes down to bedrock in order to stabilize one side of the tower while letting the other side sink down, allowing the building to level itself out. By this time, the tower had sunk a total of 17 inches, and tilted 14 inches to the west and 6 inches to the north. Estimations for this solution ranged between $200-500 million.

Finally, in September of this year, a panel of independent experts approved a $100 milliion fix. Over the course of 11 months, the four-person panel—hired by the city and headed up by Stanford engineering professor Gregory Deierlein—met 11 times with design teams from engineering firm Simpson Gumpertz & Heger for the proposed changes.

Hydrogen Iodide, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A new sound art installation at the San Francisco Art Institute will soon be gracing the ears of San Francisco residents and will continue to be on display until the city’s plagued Millennium Tower is fixed—or collapses.

In a letter addressed to the City and County of San Francisco Department of Building Inspections, the four-expert panel—made up of Gregory G. Deierlein, Shahriar Vahdani, Marko Schotanus and Craig Shield—announced that by adding new piles to the structure, chances of future sinking should be reduced, in addition to improved seismic performance.

Currently, the tower sits on 950 reinforced concrete piles that have been driven up to 90 feet deep into bay mud. However, the approved proposal involves the installation of 52 new piles that will extend 250 feet down into the bedrock on the north and west sides of the tower through an extension to the existing mat foundation.

The piles are reported to be 2 feet in diameter and weigh 140,000 pounds. The process will also relieve stress on the compressed soil located underneath the north and west sides of the building.

That work is currently ongoing.

The Installation

The installation uses computational algorithms that look at data representing the movement of the tower. That data is then mapped to autonomous sensory meridian response beats, “transforming the sonification of the sinking and tilting of the Millennium Tower into therapeutic sounds designed to encourage relaxation by extending the power of the city’s scenic beauty,” according to the SFAI.

Long-range acoustic devices, installed in the tower at SFAI’s campus, will subtly broadcast this indeterminate and generative multichannel sound composition to North Beach and downtown San Francisco for a four-minute duration each day at 5 p.m. beginning on Nov. 15.

According to Curbed, the sounds will become less orderly every day, with the original pattern’s decomposition modeled after the tower’s sinking.


Tagged categories: Condominiums/High-Rise Residential; Good Technical Practice; NA; North America

Comment from john lienert, (11/6/2019, 7:26 AM)

"sounds stupid"

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