Welding half a million stainless steel rings into a precisely designed pattern was a great task. It took the Chinese workers six months to make the chainmail façade, which came in 15 sections that were joined together at the building site.
But assembling the rings might have been the easy part.
Before that step could happen, a design had to be developed so the chainmail could be draped, at a constant tension, over the irregularly shaped building.
"The design had to go really deep," said Na Min Ra, founding partner of Front Inc., the project's engineering firm.
As a one-of-a-kind design, "every bolt and nut had to be engineered and built," Ra said. "It was very difficult."
Wherever there was a bulge in the building -- there were several incongruous protrusions -- Ra and his team had to calculate the correct number of rings on each row so the sheet maintained a consistent tension throughout.
The designers used tensioners just over the building's parapet, allowing the 15 sections to be individually tightened or loosened to achieve the appropriate tension. The system also allows for the swatches' tensions to be adjusted as they change over time with age and weather.
The sheets' attachment to the building is seamless. Their bases are welded to a metal bar a foot and a half below ground level, and the tops are stretched over the parapet.
The result is a chainmail-draped contemporary art gallery building that harmonizes with a historic up-and-coming neighborhood. Like other striking art galleries and museums -- like (on a grand scale) the Guggenheim in New York City -- the building promises an aesthetic experience, not just an exhibit.