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"We had no intention of designing this to impress or to set records, it just felt right. From the moment we produced the first 3D renders we felt the excitement, it was perfect, it blended with the architectural surroundings and yet it had a strong presence."
Beau McClellan

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Unusual Rigging and Engineering installs an unusual chandelier

December 2009

Mention chandeliers and most people think of the traditional branched lighting fixture, usually circular and very ornate. That perception is about to change, thanks to a 38.5 metre long lighting installation that snakes through the atrium of new offices built by Hitmi Property Development on The Corniche in Doha, Qatar. Not only is it the world's largest chandelier, it is also the largest interactive LED light sculpture.

Consisting of 2,300 individually hand ground optical crystals, each shrouded on both sides by high quality pieces of concave glass and covered with a unique reflective coating, Reflective Flow uses some 55,000 LEDs which are controlled by a bespoke, state of the art control system. During the day, Reflective Flow is an organic art sculpture, constantly changing with its surroundings, but it is at night that it really comes alive. When light is introduced behind the glass frames, the unique coating becomes either fully or semi transparent allowing the sculpture to transform into an incredible ever-changing light piece.

Designed by Beau McClellan, one of the world's most respected lighting designers, Reflective Flow weighs in at 20 tons (22 US tons) and its installation, 16 metres up in the atrium, required some strategic thinking. Steve Porter, project manager for Unusual Rigging and Engineering LLC, explains: "The building was already under construction when Beau was commissioned to create a feature centrepiece, so architecturally it had not been designed with the chandelier in mind. With a glass ceiling and two glass walls, the atrium offered very few load bearing points."

Beau McClellan comments: "We had no intention of designing this to impress or to set records, it just felt right. From the moment we produced the first 3D renders we felt the excitement, it was perfect, it blended with the architectural surroundings and yet it had a strong presence."

Unusual Rigging and Engineering assisted the Beau McClellan Design team in the planning and execution of the installation, and Steve himself worked with the structural engineers from Beau McClellan Design for some 15 months. After liaising with the Hitmi Property Development engineers on site to identify the load bearing points, he then visited the Beau McClellan Design studio to see the frame of the chandelier being built, which enabled him to devise the complete rigging scheme, including the design of the chandelier's fixings. Steve continues: "The installation was made more complicated by the dynamics of the building. Most of the fixing points are in the concrete surrounding the lift shafts, as these were the only points strong enough to take the weight. Consequently the decision was made to hang the chandelier from an array of cables."

Beau adds: "Of course the complications of installation are proportional to the size of Reflective Flow; when dealing with such a large and complicated installation there is no margin for error, so we decided to rent a huge warehouse and assemble the entire sculpture there. In this way, we were able to preview all the problems we might encounter and also test all the individual components before shipping them to Qatar. We recruited the best teams in the world to assist with the planning and installation of the project; our trial runs are like dress rehearsals for a stage show, the fitting of Reflective Flow was our 'opening night' and everything was seamless. I must say everyone who worked with us on the installation performed their tasks professionally and admirably."

Once the various sections of the chandelier had been delivered to Doha, the actual installation took just over a month, with Steve leading a team of five from Unusual Rigging and Engineering, plus six people from Beau McClellan Design. To hang the upper frame of the chandelier, the Unusual Rigging team were working at a height of 17 metres, on a platform supported by a large scaffold structure. Here the sections were put together – looking rather like an oversize Scalextric track – before being suspended from the cable arrays. The scaffold was there lowered by 5m to enable the team to attach the stainless steel blade before the LEDs and crystals were fitted.

Steve said: "This was unlike anything I've ever worked on before and I feel privileged to have been part of the project. The chandelier is amazing and the teamwork from everyone was brilliant!"


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