Outback dazzle with complex glass artwork installation during lockdown

At the beginning of the year, Outback Rigging were approached by market leading architects ‘Haskoll’, on behalf of principle contractors McLaren Construction Ltd, to install an exclusive large artwork collection into the Royal Victoria Place in Tunbridge Wells. The large shopping centre, owned and operated by British Land, underwent a significant refurbishment project to modernise the existing space.

The bespoke installation consisted of a three-dimensional stainless steel and hand blown glass ‘clusters’, fabricated by the Spanish artists ‘Atelier MEL’. The artwork pieces were installed throughout the mall and consisted of three main elements.

The artwork had 68 glass module subsets, that hung in the lower mall of the shopping centre, comprising a total of 272 glass petals of various shades that hung on custom bridals attached to custom anchors. Outback positioned these in the roof using a laser survey, to ensure the positions installed, exactly matched the McLaren ar- chitects and the designer Atelier Mel’s drawings. This was followed by an installation of 690 individual glass petals mounted vertically across 2 walls above the escalator double height void area, to form a wash of petals.

The main mall installation then consisted of 7 custom oval aluminium ribbons, designed and manufactured in conjunction with our partner company ‘Total Fabrications’. The ribbons came in 3 different sizes (2 large, 3 medium and 2 small), and hung under the glass atrium in bays of the shopping centre. To create the ribbons, a custom die casting had to be made in Italy, and then transferred to a custom mill in Spain to extrude the aluminium from the die; due to it being a particularly large profile aluminium structure. Once the ribbons were then rolled into large oval shapes, Custom hanging brackets had to then be designed and installed into the atria roof, to allow for D8+ EXE chain hoists to be hung, so the ribbon could be lifted. Outback Rigging then supplied a control system, with custom fabricated connection boxes for the hoists and the system itself; allowing for everything to be concealed.

Overall, this was a large complex installation, involving just shy of 5000 individual glass artisan petals. However, not only did Outback face the challenge of devising a technical solution, to handle effectively very delicate glass artwork in a commercial shopping space, which involved a vast amount of overnight work. The process and installation itself was made very challenging, due to occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the installation was a complete custom fabrication, the unexpected occurrence of COVID-19, made the logistics quite challenging. Suppliers and the whole supply chain itself faced the struggles of working at reduced staffing levels or going into complete lockdown. As the installation had tooling and die that was made in Italy and Spain, this had to be promptly shipped into the UK, just as their country’s borders were closing. However, The Outback team, headed by Conrad Ryan, worked alongside the McLaren team, Alfie Barns (Quantity surveyor), Duncan Miller (Senior site manager) and Sian Imray (Assistant design manager) to overcome these hurdles; allowing for the installation to be completed a week ahead of the contractors schedule.

Duncan Miller gave his “sincere thanks to the Outback Rigging team from start to finish on the Project. The design, manufacture and installation of the glass artwork & ribbon at RVP was to a very high standard. The client is very happy with the finished product, and the Artwork has enhanced the shopping centre. Thank you very much to Conrad for all his hard work pre contract, through the design stage and the excellent installation by him and his team. I look forward to working with Outback Rigging in the future”.