Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History recently underwent a major renovation of their Stanley Field Hall.
The motivation for this overhaul was to replace (and move to another location) the world-renowned SUE, a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton that had been on display since May 2000, with a cast of the largest dinosaur ever found, Patagotitan mayorum, more colloquially known as the titanosaur named Máximo. While the renovation on the ground took place, Flyhouse crews hustled 75 feet above in the ceiling to add additional touches to the exhibit by installing hanging gardens and flying birds.
The Field project consists of four hanging gardens with an internal irrigation system. The hanging gardens, created in a bio-polymer derived from plant material, supports plant life including those from a prehistoric era; each garden weighs anywhere from 5,000 – 18,000 lbs. Along with the gardens, a life-sized replica of the largest flying reptile ever discovered, a Quetzalcoatlus, was suspended from the ceiling. The Quetzalcoatlus spans 35 feet across and weighs over 500 lbs. Two smaller Pteranodons weighing 90 lbs. each were also part of the install.
Early in the concept phase, the museum understood that specialty rigging would be needed to fulfill their imaginative dreams. They incorporated their artistic team along with Flyhouse’s automation design team to make sure ideas could become a reality. Flyhouse ensured them there was a solution.
Over the course of six weeks, Flyhouse worked in the ceiling of the Field Museum to create the infrastructure to support the weight of the display’s hanging items. The first step in any design is to determine how to install all the system components.
With the hall’s immense ceiling, hauling supplemental steel and automation equipment to the ceiling is a challenge. Flyhouse custom designed and engineered a massive OSHA-compliant working platform with a 14-ton working capacity that transported all the equipment from the ground to the ceiling. This kept all patrons, equipment, and museum aesthetics underneath safe from overhead dangers along with providing complete access to everywhere in the ceiling for the installation.
Flyhouse installed two large capacity and one medium capacity hoists with lots of supplemental steel and equipment to automate the four hanging gardens. The automation system is a fixed-speed system moving up to 16 feet per minute with the ability to set custom trims. To adhere to the museum’s LEED status, the braking system is a regenerative system that not only helps with heat accumulation in the ceiling but also helps with power consumption by placing electricity back into the building. With a custom-designed touchscreen control created specifically for this space, museum staff can move the gardens into various positions dependent upon need.
By giving The Field Museum the possibility to design Stanley Field Hall to their unique specifications, Flyhouse has opened a world of possibilities to those who have large-scale dreams.