Metropolis II

Metropolis II by Chris Burden is a beautiful and complex modern art piece that poses interesting questions for conservation practice and future maintenance. I have heard that it costs in excess of $200,000 to operate per year and yet is not run on a daily basis. The cars alone require a considerable amount of care – as the wheel bearings wear out from regularly running at speeds of over 200 scale mph. Watch the video above to see it running!

“Created by artist Chris Burden, Metropolis II (2010) is a complex, large-scale kinetic sculpture modeled after a fast-paced modern city. The armature of the piece is constructed of steel beams, forming an eclectic grid interwoven with an elaborate system of eighteen roadways, including a six-lane freeway, train tracks, and hundreds of buildings. 1,100 miniature toy cars speed through the city at 240 scale miles per hour on the specially designed plastic roadways. Every hour, the equivalent of approximately 100,000 cars circulates through the sculpture. “The noise, the continuous flow of the trains, and the speeding toy cars, produces in the viewer the stress of living in a dynamic, active and bustling 21st Century city.”

Situated in the center of the grid are three electrically powered conveyor belts, each studded with magnets at regular intervals. The magnets on the conveyor belt and those on the toy cars attract, enabling the cars to travel to the top of the sculpture without physical contact between the belt and cars. At the top, the cars are released one at a time and race down the roadways, weaving in and out of the structure, simulating rapid traffic and congestion.

Metropolis II is on long-term loan to LACMA, thanks to the generosity of LACMA Trustee Nicolas Berggruen. Beginning January 14, 2012, the work will be on view on the first floor of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) and run on weekends during the scheduled times below.

  • The cars are attached by a small magnet to the conveyor belt that brings them to the crest
  • The only motorization of the cars is the conveyor belt to the top
  • Once the cars cross over the crest and head downward, their entire movement is by gravity
  • They travel at a scale speed of 240 mph, plus or minus
  • The tracks they take are Teflon coated to reduce friction
  • The tracks are beveled at 7 degrees to give added torque for speed when they come through corners and curves”

Taken from a press release from LACMA available here.

You can see it running  –
Fridays: 12:30-2 pm; 3-4:30 pm; 5-6:30 pm; 7-8:30 pm
Weekends: 11:30-1:00 pm; 2-3:30 pm; 4-5:30 pm; 6-7:30 pm
Weekdays: not operational


Annual AIC & CAC Conference in Montreal

Hello everyone! It’s another busy week here at the Memoria Technica workshop.  I have some exciting news about the upcoming joint 44th Annual Meeting and 42nd Annual Conference in Montreal for the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) and the Canadian Association for Conservation (Association Canadienne pour la Conservation et la Restauration) (CAC-ACCR). David Lindow and I have been selected to give a joint lecture on Guilloché work in Conservation. Read more about it here. There will be a lot of exciting talks covering a variety of subject areas! I hope to see some of you there. The conference takes place in Montreal May 13-17 2016 – more info here.

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What we will be talking about: “Guilloché , also referred to as engine turning, is work produced on a rose engine or straight-line engine. The rose engine was developed in the 16th century, but found wide scale popularity in the early 19th century when Breguet applied the craft to augment his watch dials, cases, and movements. Many believe it reached its apex with Fabergé. Developing a conservation methodology for Guilloché work appears to be a relatively new subject and understanding the processes by which an object was made or decorated may be the first stage in development. Little information is widely available on the enigmatic rose engine and even less is available on the process by which its patterns are created. We will briefly explore the history of these machines and their various uses through examining the steps required for accomplishing distinct patterns and looking at some of the diverse objects that employ them. The reflective quality of Guilloché work along with the effects of oxidation on this property will be examined. Through this we will identify various pitfalls in the practice of cleaning and repair. The rose engine was employed not only in horology to decorate metal objects of art, but also in other media such as pottery by Josiah Wedgwood and modern plastic injection molding patterns. As these machines were used from the early 16th century through the present, many conservators are likely to encounter objects that were either made or decorated by them. This session will seek to aid in the development of a conservation methodology for treating and working with engine made or decorated objects. ”

In other news – registration for the upcoming classes on Engine Turning at the workshop has been so popular, we’ve added another set of beginners classes. Please get in touch here to register if you’d like to join!

Upcoming Engine Turning Classes


I’m so excited to announce engine turning classes here at the Memoria Technica workshop! It’s been a long time in the making, but I’m finally set up to start holding regular classes. If you’re interested, please sign up on the Classes page found on the top menu bar. There you will find full course descriptions, dates, and costs. We are presently accepting applications for our January/February classes.

Click here and here to see what we got up to in our previous sessions. Students will have the opportunity to learn on both the rose and straight line engines. These two beautiful antique machines are from the Bulova watchmaking factory.

Here’s a quick description of the three upcoming classes:

January 23/24 – A 2-day Intro to Engine Turning class, geared towards newbies to the field. Whether students are looking into watch dials for jewelry, or curious about guilloché work in general, this class caters to individual’s interests via a variety of projects.

January 30/31 – A 2-day Intro to Engine Turning class, geared towards newbies to the field. Whether students are looking into watch dials for jewelry, or curious about guilloché work in general, this class caters to individual’s interests via a variety of projects.

February 6/7 – A 2-day, more intermediate Engine Turning #2, includes lessons on blank preparation, integrating divergent patters, and laying out work that requires multiple centers.

If you have any questions on the classes, be sure to get in touch!

UPDATE: due to a number of recent inquiries – we added another Beginners Class on the weekend of January 23/24.