The International Exposition 2012 Yeosu Korea featured the debut of a one-of-a-kind floating fountain combining displays of water, light, and fire. The brainchild of California-based design firm WET, the floating fountain is approximately 117 meters long by 20 meters wide, and combined with a fixed structure called the “Big-O,” generates the incredible displays envisioned by WET.
Designed for Form and Function
WET tasked Glosten with designing a low-profile floating structure to support the Big-O. The structure had to be aesthetically pleasing, yet robust enough to provide a stable platform – capable of reacting minimally as the fountain propelled shots of water hundreds of feet into the air. Since the fountain was to be installed in the ocean, the structure also required a mooring design that could maintain the fountain’s alignment relative to the crowd while accommodating four meters of tidal fluctuation and remaining invisible to spectators at low tide.
Due to limited access to the fountain’s final installed location, the platform needed to be designed to allow for modular construction and full assembly in the water. Additionally, the Expo start date allowed less than a year to design, fabricate, install, and commission the fountain.
A Team Approach
Within this very tight schedule, Glosten developed the float layout and structure while WET finalized the device layout and details. The configuration was developed quickly to allow time for site dredging while the design was still being completed.
The hydrodynamic response of the float system was a concern for WET, as their fountain devices operate best in a relatively small band of distance above or below the waterline. There was concern that choreographing the devices within the Big-O fountain to music could generate a natural frequency response causing excessive motion, submerging devices that needed to remain above the waterline and exposing devices that needed to remain submerged. To ensure that the fountain device reactions would not generate significant motions, Glosten created an OrcaFlex model and verified with a time-domain analysis that motions would remain at acceptable levels.
Glosten worked closely with WET to develop the mechanical systems for the floating fountain, which involved a complex system of compressed air, water piping, and electrical power and signals to support the devices throughout the floating fountain. In addition to the design effort, Glosten supported WET throughout fabrication and installation, which included a significant amount of time spent onsite in Korea.
A Successful Event
The Big-O fountain, with 400 fountain nozzles, mesmerizing lighting, and 3D holographic images on sprayed water, was a huge success and a significant cultural event. In addition to the dramatic display, the fountain’s holographic effects were used to tell a story highlighting the Expo’s theme of global cooperation in sustaining the oceans. Meanwhile, much like an iceberg, over 95% of Glosten’s hard work was hidden below the waterline.
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