During the September 2008 renovation of their Oceanarium, The Shedd Aquarium decided to donate two life-sized whale sculptures to Children’s Memorial Hospital’s new building.

As Lead Rigging Consultants for the Shedd renovation, Chicago Flyhouse was on hand to transport the whales into temporary storage at the Field Museum, where the larger of the two pieces was separated into sections to fit into the warehouse space.

While in storage, Flyhouse worked in conjunction with General Contractor Mortenson/Power and CMH’s New Development Team to have the pieces scanned and 3-D rendered so that architects Zimmer Gunsul Frasca could determine the best orientation for the whales in the hospital’s new lobby.

In June 2010, the whales were taken to Flyhouse’s shop for reconstruction, refurbishment, repainting, and the installation of permanent rigging points.

Rigging for both the sculptures themselves and the ceiling of the hospital lobby was determined using the earlier 3-D architectural renderings. Internal rigging points for the whales proved challenging, as their natural shapes rendered them unwieldy and difficult to orient in the positions chosen by the architects. Prior to onsite installation, the pieces were test-rigged in the Flyloft, where the hospital’s entire project team visited to give final approval of the rigging design and positioning of the sculptures in the air.

To bring the whales into the hospital lobby, Flyhouse used a crane to hoist the massive sculptures (the larger whale is 32’x6’x20′) off of a flatbed truck and through a narrow 10’x8′ opening – requiring the temporary removal of their fins, which were then re-attached once the pieces were safely inside. Using temporary chain motors, the whales were hoisted into position. Once their orientation and height were confirmed as correct, the pieces were permanently fixed to the rigging points and the temporary chain motors removed from the site.

Installation took place in December of 2010, coordinated around a media event at the hospital honoring Shedd’s donation of the whales and marking their new life at Children’s Memorial. Flyhouse coordinated with event staff to create an event launch effect that allowed a member of the Children’s Memorial Hospital Kids’ Advisory Board to push the button that hoisted the whales into their final position.