Pillars of Reflection



Introduction: Pillars of Reflection

Pillars of Reflection is a simple, non-obtrusive mirror-based installation. It was one of the many installations that were part of the 2016 Market Street Prototyping Festival. The project consists of six pillars composed of a series of panelized mirrors. Each one of these mirrors is angled differently as to produce a kaleidoscope effect, reflecting the complex moments of Market Street in a collage of reflected images. One pillar, for example, may contain a matrix of reflections, collapsing Market Street’s verticality by bringing together images of the sky, the sidewalk, and the pedestrians and vehicles that inhabit it. The angles of these mirrors can be adjusted by the user, allowing people to compose an endless number of collages. The installation contains, in its entirety, five pillars of three varying heights, facing five different directions. The panelized mirrors are located on both sides of the pillar, which rests on a structural wooden base.

Created by the Paper Fly Collective, composed of Etienne Ma and Timothy Wei, this installation aimed to reveal the beauty of Market Street through reflection – of ourselves, each other, and environment around us. These pillars are at times monuments and at others canvasses. They are portals providing a glimpse of how the many moving parts of Market Street come together to form the pulsing heart of the city.

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Step 1: Materials

Each Pillar consists of three major components: the mirrored panels themselves, the frame, and a base. To build this installation in its entirety, you will need the following materials.

Mirrored Panels

  • 132: Mirrored acrylic sheets sized at 8x12 inches
  • 22: 5/16”-18 threaded 3 ft rods
  • 176: 5/16” nuts
  • 44: 5/16” coupling nuts
  • 132: 1 x 1 x 12 in wood pieces
  • Gorilla glue
  • Loctite Threadlocker


  • 5 OSB sheets cut to 4 x 3 ft
  • 10 OSB sheets cut to 4 X 1 ft
  • 10 OSB sheets cut to 3 X 1 ft
  • 10 Pine boards cut to 3 X 1 ft
  • 90 L-brackets 90 ¼ in screws
  • 90 ½ in screws (Optional)
  • 5 sheets of white satin cloth, cut to size


  • 4 8 x 1 ft Pine boards (sides)
  • 8 7 x 1 ft Pine boards (sides)
  • 8 5 x 1 ft Pine boards (sides)
  • 20 2’10” x 1 ft Pine boards (tops/bottoms)
  • 40 L-brackets 160 ½ in screws

Step 2: Design

The design of Pillars of Reflection began with an investigation of kaleidoscopes and mirror based art installations. Once initial sketches were produced, the Pillars were modeled in Rhino 3D. From these models, material dimensions and components were extracted.

The design process also included a significant amount of interaction with the community, through open house events and design charettes, and engineering consultants.Community feedback from the Open House was centered predominantly on the arrangement of the pillars, which consists of orienting them towards interesting buildings and sidewalk elements, as well as in the flexibility and interactivity of the mirrors, which was modified so that all panels could be rotated with ease. The design was retrofitted to respond to these and ADA requirements.

Step 3: Fabrication

To construct this installation all one must do is follow the following three steps:

Step A: Assembling the Mirrors
Each rod will carry 3 double-sided panels of mirrors, and each panel of mirrors will consist of 2 sheets of mirrors and 2 wood pieces.

  1. You’ll need to first drill the wood pieces using 5/16” drill bit.
  2. Then you’ll slide 6 wood pieces onto the rod while simultaneously sandwiching the outside of each pair of wood pieces with nuts. The nuts will hold the mirrors in place while also allowing us to control the tension of each individual mirror panel.
  3. Dampen and apply Gorilla glue to the first side of each wood piece. Also dampen 3 mirror panels in the places that will make contact with the wood pieces. Apply the mirrors to the wood pieces, then flip them all over so that you can affix the mirrors to the other side.
  4. Repeat Step 3 on the other side, then adjust the mirrors so that they are straight.
  5. Place a heavy object, or objects on the mirrors to apply pressure while the glue sets. It should take between 60 - 120 minutes

Step B: Building the bases:

  1. Affix the sheets of pine to the OSB using 3 L-brackets on the 4 foot pine boards and 2 L-brackets on the 3 foot pine boards. Use additional L-brackets on the corners to provide additional support.
  2. Secure an additional pine board 7.5 inches from the width of the base using 2 L-brackets in the base and two on the sides.

Step C: Building the frames:

  1. Each panel of wood will be comprised of two panels screwed together.
  2. We’ll first need to drill holes into the side panels; each hole should be X inches apart, and we’ll later insert the rods through these holes.
  3. Secure the top and bottom pieces to one side using 2 L-brackets at each corner.
  4. Insert the panels of mirrors into each hole before closing off the frame with the other length piece.
  5. Use L-brackets to secure the last panel onto the frame.
  6. Attach the coupling nuts to the outside of the rods.

Step 4: Installation

Each Pillar is fabricated in two pieces for easy transportation installation: the mirrored frames and the bases. Transportation of the Pillars to Market Street involved the use of moving trucks.

The on-site installation takes about 90 minutes and should follow the steps below:

  1. Place the frame upright inside of the base, against the pine board. Use 2 L-brackets to affix the top of the pine board to the side of the frame. Use 4 additional L-brackets to secure the side of the frame to the pine board (2 on each side).
  2. Attach the other 3x1 pine board to the base with 2 L-brackets in the base and 2 on each side, wedging it as tightly as possible to the upright frame.
  3. Repeat step 1 on this side.
  4. Final (optional) step: using a staple gun, secure the satin sheets to cover the base of the frame!

Step 5: Interaction

Those passing through Market Street engaged the Pillars of Reflection in many expected and unexpected ways. Users were intended to rotate the installation's mirrors to focus on different parts of the street and each other. Nonetheless, mirrors were manipulated to create a myriad of different effects, ranging from infinite reflections to kaleidoscopic arrangements. Many selfies were taken throughout the three day festival.

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    2 Discussions


    3 years ago

    That looks like an incredibly fun project!