Inside SCI-Arc


The Coachella Astronaut: Super-Scale in the Southland

The musical performances at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio this spring were not the only experiences that were larger than life to its 90,000 daily visitors. The art collective Poetic Kinetics, which includes SCI-Arc alum Nick Kinney (M.Arch 2 '10) as well as Kristy Velasco (B.Arch '13) and Richard Nam ('11), was selected again to design an installation for the vast festival grounds, known for its creative and often iconic large-scale projects and sculptures. Last year, Poetic Kinetics erected a 30-foot snail, which slid between festivalgoers during the two-weekend event.

This year, Kinney was the lead designer for Escape Velocity, a giant 60 foot tall interactive and animatronic astronaut which made its way around the festival. Along with Patrick Shearn, president at Poetic Kinetics, Kinney and the team worked tirelessly for months to turn their idea into an impressive reality. In describing the process, Kinney writes, “…I had had experience fabricating complex objects at SCI-Arc, [and] the Astronaut was no different.” The process revolved around 3D modeling the Astronaut to work within the dimensions of a lift that would act as its structural skeleton and be disguised to transport it around Coachella.

The massive feat was pulled off in a symphony of moving parts, from finalizing detailed drawings, to rigging trusses, to stitching together the fabric of the moving space traveler.

The Astronaut’s visor even allowed festivalgoers to interact with the project by displaying their images on its LED screen. In an age of social media, the Coachella Astronaut quickly gained a following and became a consistent backdrop to countless photos and videos posted online. Even Big Boi, member of renowned hip hop duo Outkast, posted an image of Escape Velocity with the caption "1.5hrs to liftoff" before their hugely anticipated headlining performance.

Learn more about Poetic Kinetics at