Drawing Machine - CODAworx

Drawing Machine


Location: Houston, TX, United States

Completion date: 2013

Project Team

Art Consultant

Kari Strachan

Skyline Art Services

Art Consultant

Charles White

Skyline Art Services


Mike Szabo

Michael Szabo Studio


For a two-story corporate office lobby atrium, Skyline Art Services and artist Mike Szabo planned and installed a free-hanging pendulum that the staff and visitors can interact with, physically introducing periodic swinging motions that in turn leave patterned markings on paper. Visitors to this office can take the resulting artwork home as a memento of their time with their host. The seven-foot-tall pendulum itself is weighted with solid concrete, and constructed out of wood and rigid wire, creating a hollow pod shape with axial symmetry that draws attention to its inherent verticality.


The client is an energy services company specializing in seismology (a common means to survey underground features that indicate the presence of hydrocarbons). This work of art literalizes that technology in a way that hearkens back to classical approaches to natural history, cosmology, and the Enlightenment. Seismology is quite simply the reading of subterranean movements not otherwise apparent. The classical pendulum helps to illuminate the movement of the Earth through space, also not otherwise apparent, and once a matter of dispute.
In this case, the pendulum operates as a sort of human seismograph, recording people’s interactions with it, and in turn with the whole atrium space. The clients wished to create a welcoming and amusing feature for visitors, and especially appreciated that the work creates a record, as proper seismology would, of movement across time. They were enthusiastic about their ability to present their visitor with the resulting drawing, a keepsake that strengthens their engagement with their own clients, partners, and vendors.
The drawing surface is a simple arrangement of paper on a 3’x3’ self-leveling table, held in place by elegant weights on each edge.


Skyline Art Services, already familiar with the work of artist Michael Szabo, approached the client with a previous version of the pendulum, some evidence of its having been successfully executed before. From the initial idea, the goal was to fit the work to the dimensions of the space, an atrium lobby that serves as the primary access and egress to the offices of the client. The designer and artist furnished specifications for the art to the contractor, who added necessary blocking to the ceiling to accommodate the weight of the piece. The artist furnished complete instructions on installation, calibration, maintenance, operation, and service. The artist also provided a starter set of paper, as well as variety of media to choose from: graphite and various colored markers.
The interior designer, who had originally specified other furniture for the space, responded to the pendulum design by changing the selection and configuration of the seating. The lobby is furnished with simple benches that bear a material resemblance to the pendulum, and they are arranged to emphasize the position and function of the artwork.