Despite all the good they do for us, it’s easy to forget the hundreds of satellites zipping by overhead. In a bid to remind us of this incredible technology, NASA asked Brooklyn-based design firm STUDIOKCA to create the Orbit Pavilion, an art installation that turns the sounds and trajectories of 19 NASA satellites into an exciting sensory experience. Created in collaboration with Shane Myrbeck of ARUP and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the nautilus-shaped structure amplifies a spellbinding symphony of sounds that map the movement of satellites in orbit.
The Orbit Pavilion’s nautilus shape was inspired by STUDIOKCA Principal Jason Klimoski’s childhood memory of holding a seashell up to his ear to listen for the sounds of the ocean. “Lesley and I thought what if you could walk into a massive shell and listen to the sounds of space — or rather, a symphony built out of the sounds of these 19 satellites in space,” Klimoski said, who designed the pavilion with STUDIOKCA Principal Lesley Chang. The designers also worked together with artist and composer Shane Myrbeck to create a symphony of 20 different sounds that correspond to the International Space Station and NASA’s 19 orbiting satellites in real-time.
The NASA Orbit Pavilion’s double-curved shell is constructed from 72 waterjet-cut aluminum panels perforated with over 100 “orbital paths.” The panels were fitted together and then bolted to a framework made up of 1,300 linear feet of curved aluminum tubes. The pavilion is set on a continuous base comprising 163 feet of CNC-milled mirrored panels. A 30-foot-diameter inner sound chamber sits at the center of the pavilion and is surrounded with a 24-speaker array that amplifies the “translated sounds” of each satellite. A ten-foot-diameter oculus located above the inner chamber lets light in and frames a “window into space.”
“The effect is to create a space that allows visitors to curve their way into a giant shell, and feel as if they’re standing in the trajectories of satellites as they orbit over, under, and around the earth,” writes STUDIOKCA. The NASA Orbit Pavilion debuted summer 2015 in New York City for the World Science Festival. The installation is currently at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, and is slated to “wash ashore” at the Huntington Library Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California later this summer.
Photographs provided by StudioKCA, were taken by David Delgado (NASA/JPL) and Chuck Choi