\u201cMusic is liquid architecture; architecture is frozen music\u201d\u2014Goethe\u2019s aphorism comes easily to mind when contemplating the National Music Centre (NMC) and its new building, recently named Studio Bell, which was designed by superstar architect Brad Cloepfil and is set to open in the summer of 2016. It\u2019s a big building\u2014160,000 square feet distributed among nine towers\u2014with a big budget: $168 million. And it supports the hopes of a revered institution, as well as the ambitions of Canada\u2019s third-largest city. Canada\u2019s Globe and Mail reports: It\u2019s a big moment for Calgary. Not only will the NMC be the city\u2019s first national cultural institution. As a major new work of contemporary architecture, it\u2019s hoped that it will serve as a catalyst for an urban neighbourhood\u2014once rundown and neglected\u2014now being rebranded as the East Village. \u201cThe building requires a certain sense of monumentality,\u201d says Cloepfil. \u201cYou want it to embody a sense of wonder and awe and mystery.\u201d But with all that bigness and ambition, NMC\u2019s new home at Studio Bell is also graceful and beautiful. Cloepfil\u2019s design has already won several international architectural awards, and it is intended to work as a performance and exhibition space, as a center for artist in residence and education programs, and as a sculptural work of art in its own right. It\u2019s even a sort of musical instrument. When accepting a Progressive Architecture (P\/A) Award from Architect Magazine, Cloepfil described the building as \u201c\u2026a gathering of resonant vessels that hold the many diverse programs, spaces and experiences of the National Music Centre. Nine towers form the body of the building; the vessel walls, clad in terra cotta, rise in subtle curves that merge, part and intertwine, modeled by light, gravity and acoustics. Inspiration for the building was drawn from Canada\u2019s iconic landscapes \u2013 from the cadence of waves to the lullaby of lake shores, from the silence of the prairies to the echo of the Arctic, and the energy and diversity of Canada\u2019s urban spaces.\u201d The professionals realizing this work of art seem inspired. \u201cI\u2019ve been doing this for 25 years, and I\u2019ve never had a chance to work on anything like it,\u201d says Dave Lapinskie, project superintendent for general contractor CANA Construction. \u201cUsually, as vision meets reality on a project like this, a lot of concessions are made to simplify things. But none of that is happening here; even fine details, like the custom tiles that fit together like a dragon\u2019s skin, are being realized in the actual construction. This building is special.\u201d However, contractors and surveyors could be forgiven for less exalted feelings when contemplating Cloepfil\u2019s ambitious design; the \u201cresonant vessels\u201d and \u201csubtle curves\u201d are not easily defined arcs, and verticality is scarce in this building. Not too many years ago, the new NMC would have been unbuildable, and presently it is a construction challenge of the highest order. Cloepfil himself says, \u201cIt\u2019s an exciting thing, but it\u2019s a daunting thing. It\u2019s a building type that doesn\u2019t exist yet.\u201d Even an inspired builder, like Lead Surveyor Alex Simakov, can feel intimidated by such a defiantly non-regular building. \u201cNone of the \u2018arcs\u2019 are arcs, per se\u2014they\u2019re more like scribbled lines,\u201d he says. \u201cSo every single stud has to be laid out in 3D\u2014by the time we\u2019re finished here we\u2019ll have set about 50,000 points just for stud layout.\u201d Setting that many points in a densely complex construction environment required investment in an advanced survey solution and a commitment to getting the most possible utility out of that investment, including scanning to produce almost real-time as-builts. And, mid-project, CANA brought on a new 3D data controller that\u2019s been \u201crevolutionary\u201d according to Simakov. When it comes to architectural layout, the work he\u2019s doing is state-of-the-art and ambitious, and worthy of Calgary\u2019s new masterpiece. Extracting Points You\u2019d think a sexy, curvy design like Studio Bell would be based on pure building information modeling (BIM), but in fact, the only architect-produced 3D model that was useful to CANA was a Rhino 3D model that positioned every stud for every vessel. From this, they had to extract the X,Y,Z of every layout point needed\u2014and it wasn\u2019t easy. \u201cThere wasn\u2019t a lot of familiarity with the day to day tasks of construction surveying,\u201d Simakov says. \u201cSo just getting points we could use\u2014we needed at least four per stud\u2014was a significant chore.\u201d The first step was to hire an Excel specialist to write custom routines that converted points extracted from the model (by architects) to an uploadable ASCII format. That worked but created a lot of points, some of which were unnecessary and all of which needed checking. Basically, Simakov looked at the points in the office, rotating views as needed, to spot points that seemed out of place. That\u2019s a difficult task when dealing with such an irregular building, and the entire process took about a month. That delay didn\u2019t make things easier for CANA. \u201cWe weren\u2019t allotted a great deal of time to think on this project,\u201d Lapinskie says. \u201cIt\u2019s a tight schedule, and the JUNO Awards provide a very motivating deadline\u2014we\u2019ve really had to be as productive as possible, right from the beginning.\u201d To that end, CANA talked with Jeff Johnston, a technical sales representative at Spatial Technologies. \u201cI\u2019ve been in the construction survey business for 20 years, and haven\u2019t seen too many projects that approach this level of complexity,\u201d Johnston says. \u201cEvery wall seems to have horizontal and vertical curves\u2014the density of layout points required is unprecedented. CANA needed a fast, one-second total station, and they needed scanning capacity, too, so I suggested the Leica Nova MS50 MultiStation, supported by Leica Infinity software.\u201d \u201cIt turned out to be the right machine for us,\u201d Lapinskie says. \u201cGiven the complex geometry, the 10 to 11 hour work days, and the need for both productivity and precision, I don\u2019t know what else would have worked.\u201d Imagine laying out thousands of irregular studs, very few of them vertical, fewer still arranged on straight lines\u2014some studs were even intended to be curved or twisted when being installed, and they all required information-rich indexing and informational marking for use by subcontractors. Simakov hit the ground running. \u201cWe were shooting non-stop for five months, in winter, when everything was wrapped in tarps\u2014I had to change stations constantly, and I went through three or four batteries a day.\u201d He devised a workflow that helped, based on a 360\u00ba mini-prism. \u201cAiming was faster with the mini-prism, and location was precise enough to meet our 2- to 3-mm tolerances. And while the point was being punched and marked, I used the MS50 to paint a laser dot on the floor at the next point.\u201d Working that way, Simakov and his crew could set one point every two minutes, an impressive rate given the circumstances. \u201cOn a good, long day we could do 200 points\u2014but of course, we didn\u2019t get a lot of those days. Some days, I spent 20 to 30 percent of my time explaining things to subcontractors.\u201d Lapinskie adds, \u201cWe labeled every point, we used different colors for different elevations, and we provided hard copy spread sheets to all subcontractors. But in the end it\u2019s a complicated building site, and a lot of good communication was needed.\u201d Mid-project, CANA switched from a Leica Viva CS15 Controller to the new Leica Captivate CS20 Controller. This added capacity for 3D point viewing, and according to Simakov that made a big difference. \u201cI wish we\u2019d had it earlier. In 2D, the points usually look like a big cloud. Now, the 3D views that I use in the office are available during staking, so I can rotate until I find a view that makes sense. That raised confidence and made everything go faster, for me and for the subs.\u201d A Pass\/Fail QC Test Two immense stairways, fabricated offsite, were delivered and installed during construction and provided what amounted to a pass\/fail test of CANA\u2019s staking methodology. By all accounts, the stairs are dramatic. \u201cThese are feature stairs that fit in two of the \u2018resonant vessels,\u2019 made of steel and built in Ontario,\u201d Lapinskie says. \u201cAnd of course they\u2019re not based on straight lines, or even spirals\u2014they\u2019re more like snakes or tornadoes that rise up five levels, with four intermediate landings, a self-supporting landing, cantilevered sections, asymmetric pinning, and\u2026 well, you get the idea. They\u2019re difficult.\u201d And they had to fit precisely in vast chambers that were also \u201cdifficult.\u201d The architects, CANA, and prefabricators worked together closely during fabrication, with CANA providing as-built dimensions as they became available. Some virtual clash detection had been performed, but stair installation was still a tense couple of weeks. \u201cWe\u2019re confident we\u2019re building according to plan here but frankly, on a one-of-a-kind project like this, maintaining positional accuracy is nerve-wracking,\u201d Lapinskie explains. \u201cA lot of it comes down to trusting Alex, which I do. But even he\u2019s told me at times, \u2018This shape is so complex, I\u2019m not sure even the architect would notice if I made a mistake!\u2019\u201d During construction, installation of the stairs and other prefabricated features was the best opportunity to verify the accuracy of CANA\u2019s project-specific layout methodology. Results were definitely reassuring. \u201cThere were places where the stairs were designed to come to rest within 80 mm (about three inches) of existing structure,\u201d Lapinskie says. \u201cAnd in those places, and everywhere else, we were within 3 mm of design. That\u2019s well within tolerance\u2014Alex\u2019s work here has been outstanding.\u201d Two Advanced Uses of an Advanced Instrument Surveyors and contractors are, of course, willing to invest in superior technology in order to do superior work. But naturally, there is also reluctance to commit to the very latest equipment\u2014are the advanced new features actually useful, or are they just fancy \u201cbells and whistles\u201d? CANA believes that the cutting edge features of their new equipment have offered immediate return on investment. The CS20\u2019s 3D point manipulation made point layout faster and more certain. Likewise, the Nova MS50\u2019s video feed, remote operation and powerful scanning capacity have delivered immediate utility. Simakov describes a situation where remote operation was invaluable. \u201cIn some of the large vessels, we\u2019ve had to set points several levels up before there were any solid floors to work from.\u201d To meet that challenge, Simakov used a custom bracket to securely mount the MS50 on stable, elevated structural elements. He then used his controller to view the video feed and remotely operate the MS50 from a safe location. His rodman\u2014fully trained and using all safety equipment, of course\u2014could climb or be hoisted as needed, and set required layout points with perfect accuracy. Laser scanning, used to perform rapid interim as-builts, has also provided immediate payoff\u2014in fact, scanned as-built surveys for use during construction are emerging as nearly essential on many commercial projects. A good example from the NMC project involves concrete floors. \u201cSome of the concrete being poured will be surfaced with hardwood flooring designed and cut offsite,\u201d Lapinskie explains. \u201cAnd that requires extreme precision\u2014we need the concrete dimensions to be within an eighth of an inch of design.\u201d To achieve that, the teams used the Leica Nova MS50 to scan new concrete floors and then used Leica Infinity to export point clouds manipulated in Autodesk Revit software to create heat maps showing high and low areas. Simakov then laid out splined curves around these areas, essentially providing cut and fill staking for concrete subcontractors who did grinding and filling as needed. \u201cWithout the scans, we would have had to fall back on 12-foot straight edges, which can make almost anything look level,\u201d Lapinskie says. \u201cThat wouldn\u2019t work here\u2014the precision and detail requirements for finished surfaces are just too demanding.\u201d In conversation, it\u2019s easy to tell that Simakov and Lapinskie view the National Music Centre\u2019s new home at Studio Bell as more than just another construction project. For one thing, they seem unusually invested in the architectural vision being expressed. \u201cEven the skin on this building is beautiful,\u201d Lapinskie says. \u201cIt\u2019s made of tiles, used inside and out, extruded in Germany and hand-finished in Amsterdam. The tile and the curved walls were modeled together so that the tiles interlock like shingles on a roof, or scales on a dragon\u2019s skin, to complement the curves and bring inside and outside together. It\u2019s truly amazing; everything the architect envisioned is happening here.\u201d And if the architect is the composer of this frozen music, CANA Construction and their subcontractors are the orchestra that are giving it form, elite talents playing the best instruments available. And Simakov and Lapinskie are the conductors, keeping everyone on time, and every stud and tile in place. There are times when surveying and construction are the most beautiful of professions.