London Design Festival – Reflections of contemplation

London Design Festival Aluminium Truss Structure test build

The divisions between architecture and art have become ever more blurred in recent years, so no one should be surprised to find room-spanning mirrored structures suspended in the Raphael Gallery at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum as part of the London Design Festival. Designers Edward Barber OBE and Jay Osgerby OBE, in collaboration with BMW, devised ‘Double Space for BMW’, a kinetic installation that altered the viewers perception of space and movement in relation to themselves and the Raphael Cartoons on display. Total Solutions Group (TSG) were tasked with suspending the structures in the revered halls of the V&A.

“Manufactured by Millimetre and engineered by Arup, the two structures are in fact shallow ellipses 15m long and 10m deep made from polished Alucore panels mounted to a lattice framework, much like the construction of an aircraft wing,” explained Ian Hall who managed the project for TSG. “The fact that they move, gently rotating on their long axis through the space of the Gallery, presented a number of challenges.” These included weight restrictions for the gallery floor (420kgs/m² max), and the significant shifting force transfer involved as the mirrored panels make their stately rotation through the space and it became apparent that this was no simple task.

“The design solution was essentially prescribed by the galleries physical dimensions, 36m long, 15m wide and the ceiling being 17m at its peak. A linked goalpost structure that hugs the gallery walls and barrel vaulted ceiling was obvious. Calculating the forces was more complex but the elements in contention were finite. It was then a matter of size and strength for the suspension system.We selected the elements from standard items in our structural inventory, using 18” towers with elements of our SHD and EHD trussing systems from the Total Fabrications Ltd catalogue (part of TSG), then adding custom fabricated parts as required. Independent structural consultant Malcolm Richards verified the calculations, noting the deflection of the truss frame as loads transferred needed to be below 2mm; essentially the frame could not be allowed to move.”

‘Double Space for BMW was a key installation as part of the London Design Festival at the V&A,’ said Festival Operations Director Ruth Dillon. ‘The six-week display enabled thousands of visitors to observe and enjoy the Raphael Cartoons in new and unexpected ways. TSG were a pleasure to work with and overcame numerous technical challenges, they performed efficiently under our time constraints as part of a busy build schedule.’

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