Metropolis II: Sculpture In Motion

February 20, 2012 — 1 Comment

This is the ultimate race track young boys dream of building. It’s loud, fast, and hypnotic. Guys will marvel over its raw energy and speed and women will appreciate its sheer beauty and functionality. This is one toy set parents won’t ask anyone to put away.

Chris Burden‘s new art installation and childhood obsession, Metropolis II, at the LACMA is pulsing, dizzying, anxiety-generating, and highly entertaining. It is an epic moving sculpture that looks like a toy racetrack or train set on speed; attracting both billionaire art collectors and car-obsessed 5-year-olds. My friend and I fall into the “car-obsessed 5 year olds” category and spent an hour circling and analyzing this unique master piece.

Metropolis II is an intense and a complex kinetic sculpture, modeled after a fast paced, frenetic modern city. Steel beams form an eclectic grid interwoven with an elaborate system of 18 roadways, including one six lane freeway, and HO scale train tracks. Miniature cars speed through the city at 240 scale miles per hour; every hour, the equivalent of approximately 100,000 cars circulate through the dense network of buildings.

The cars are dramatically lifted eight feet in the air by a magnetized conveyor belt then dispatched through the city on a roller coaster network of plastic roadways. The buildings are constructed with Legos, Lincoln Logs, and Erector Sets. This is what big kid dreams are made of.

The exhibit is complex enough to need an operator. The miniature city in motion consists of 1,100 Hot Wheels-sized cars, 25 large buildings, 18 lanes of traffic, 13 trains and one human operator. These cars are going approximately 240 miles per hour to scale.

According to Chris, “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.”

Here are a few stats on the piece:

  • 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 seven degrees to give added torque for speed when they come through corners and curves.
  • The trains are out of the box electric train sets that run on electricity.
Watch a video on the exhibit here.

WHAT: Metropolis II
WHEN: Fridays: 12:30–1:30 pm; 2:30–3:30 pm; 4:30–5:30 pm; 6:30–7:30 pm
Weekends: 11:30 am–12:30 pm; 1:30–2:30 pm; 3:30–4:30 pm; 5:30–6:30 pm
WHERE: 5905 Wilshire Blvd. | Los Angeles, CA 90036

CONTACT INFO: (323) 857-6000 |

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One response to Metropolis II: Sculpture In Motion


    Why are the cars so much faster than the trains?

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