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GM won't reflect on a mirror atop the RenCen

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GM won't reflect on a mirror atop the RenCen

Concept artist fails to persuade the General to install a mirror on the roof

Todd Ulrich wants to build a gigantic stainless steel mirror and lay it atop the tallest tower of the Renaissance Center. He says that for only $1.2 million to $1.5 million, it will put Detroit on the map.

GM does not share his enthusiasm for the project and would perhaps point out that Detroit is already on the map, right where Ulrich found it.

Ulrich says GM just doesn't understand art.

GM says Ulrich just doesn't understand $1.2 million to $1.5 million.

Since GM owns the RenCen, and since Ulrich does not possess $1.2 million to $1.5 million, chances are strong that the project will expire in the same spot it was born: The churning mind of a 41-year-old post-production video editor from Claremont, Calif.

But Ulrich is not ready to give up. He's putting the word out, in hopes that either GM will come to its senses or someone else will come up with a check.

GM seems perfectly fine with its senses, so a wealthy patron might be his best bet. That's a long shot to start with, and there would still be other minor obstacles to overcome, like permission and liability and whether the darned thing is even possible. Also, it seems like a stainless steel mirror on top of a skyscraper would be hotter than a playground slide on Mercury.

No one ever said art would be easy, though, and Ulrich is determined. A wee bit goofy, maybe, but determined.

Thinks up cool stuff

Ulrich has never actually done anything like weld stainless steel strips into a perfect mirror 160 feet in diameter and anchor it more than 700 feet above the ground. He describes himself as a "conceptual artist," which means he thinks of stuff that would be cool and grand if it ever happened.

He figures GM has plenty of engineers who could handle the details. He's looking at the big picture and seeing something similar to the Ledge, the glass boxes jutting out from the Willis Tower 103 stories above Chicago.

An elevator ride to the Skydeck in the former Sears Tower goes for $15.95, with the Ledge as a bonus. Charge $10 for a trip to the top of the RenCen, he says, find 10,000 people to pay it every day, and the project would be a profit center inside a month.

"It seems like a logical thing to do after they flew to Washington to beg for money in a company plane," Ulrich says. He's referring to the congressional hearings that led to the bailouts of Chrysler and GM, and it's not completely clear where the logic is. But on the subject of money, GM's feelings were spelled out in an e-mail to Ulrich from someone high on the real estate department food chain.

"GM is not in a position to fund items like this," she wrote, "if they do not directly attribute to designing, building or selling world-class vehicles."

'Floating in space'

The goal of the installation would be to give viewers a feeling "of floating in empty space," Ulrich says, with no reality below except for the reality reflected from above.

While Detroit has no shortage of empty space at ground level -- and a peculiar sense of reality even on an average day -- it's the circumstances in midair that apparently make the RenCen the perfect spot for the project.

"There's a lot of math involved," he says, but basically, he has consulted at length with Google Earth and various topographical maps, and determined that we have the only correct combination of flat land and a flat roof on the tallest building in sight.

Unmoved, GM still says it's not interested.

Unbowed, Ulrich says GM has "no clue" about art.

Unquestionably, it's another case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder.

Maybe GM doesn't want to put a big silver Frisbee on its roof -- but have you seen that new Buick LaCrosse?

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100525/OPINION03/5250334/1148/AUTO01/GM-won-t-reflect-on-a-mirror-atop-the-RenCen#ixzz0owbvjkUB

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What if the mirror were capable of focusing sunlight onto a small space, thus allowing General Motors to melt its competition? Would that be at all feasible?

I was thinking it could be a good location for the bat signal light..

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Also, it seems like a stainless steel mirror on top of a skyscraper would be hotter than a playground slide on Mercury.

It would actually be the opposite...it would reflect most of the heat off the roof. But I don't see this being feasible or making much sense. They will have to work around mechanical penthouses and other things protruding through the roof, and then what about maintenance of the roof and mirror itself? What was make a heck of a lot more sense would be to install a green roof if he's wanting to make some "art" on top of the building.

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'Conceptual artists' - snort!

I remember when I was in Detroit- a 'conceptual artist' was overseeing his 'sculpture' of 4 inch-thick sheets of bare steel, rectangles maybe 10'x20', standing randomly in slots in 4 long 12"-dia bare steel rods. A crane (obviously) had to some in to set it up. Within weeks, huge rust stains ran across the sideways and reddened the street. For this he charged $1M.

Seems like this guy is pitching it as a roof-top attraction ('standing in mid-air')/revenue generator more than 'art', which is interesting... but I doubt the financial feasibility of the plan in Detroit...

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