On reflection…

7 October 2011 -

Reflective Flow appears as a river of constantly changing lighting and reflections

The brief

Beau McClellan was approached to design and bring to life a striking piece for the Al Hitmi office development in Doha, Qatar.

Fundamentally the piece needed to have great visual appeal, but it was also imperative for it to pertain to the space in the inter-connecting channel between the two buildings on the complex, where it would be displayed. It needed to look as if it had been designed to work effortlessly with the towering buildings either side.

Portability was also a key factor as the chandelier was to be transported from the designer’s studio in Portugal to Qatar. It was too a must for the design to comply with international codes, due to safety and other restrictions imposed by building something on such a large scale.

Sketch pad

The complex’ design stemmed from nature; when on a trip to Canada the developer was struck by two outcrops of rocks and used them as inspiration for the signature crag-like architecture of the building. The light installation creators felt it was important for the design of the chandelier to be a continuation of this. Creative director Beau McClellan tells more: ‘Reflective Flow purposely snakes between the structures like a river running through a glass mountain range.

‘The main buildings lean away from the centre, and I thought it would be stunning if my sculpture appeared to be pulling the two buildings together in the opposite direction, helping to keep them from falling over.’

Finer details

One of the key components of the structure is a specially-designed extrusion manufactured for the frame, which is one of the largest ever made.

McClellan explains further: ‘In the case of Reflective Flow we had to build a frame structure that was able to support a lot of weight; however this part also had a complex design because it had to interact with lots of other components that would have to slide through it or to be anchored to it. In the end, the use of an extrusion was our only option. Because of the pure size and length of Reflective Flow, the relevant specifications required an enormous extrusion – it ended up being pretty impressive.’

The design includes 2,300 individually hand-ground optical crystals, coating both sides of the installation using pieces of concave glass. Each of the crystals have been covered with a reflective coating which has all the qualities of a mirror. It also has anti-static properties; so repels dust and eradicates the hefty task of cleaning an installation of this size.

A bespoke state-of-the-art system was selected to control the 165,000 LEDs used. The system enables 2,300 modules to be controlled independently for an optimum amount of colour and display variation, so that the light sculpture can constantly transform and evolve in colour, shape and light.

Stumbling blocks

Other than the sheer weight of the piece, the LED system proved to be the toughest barrier to the project, as McClellan confirms: ‘We wanted to have every single light controllable, and to create the river of light, we used LEDs to produce the necessary range of colours and digital animation. However, LED RGB light can be both coarse and obvious, so we tried to counteract this by incorporating optical crystals that both magnify and diffuse the light, creating beautiful pastel shades.’

The result

After a successful two-year design process and installation, the piece achieved a Guinness World Record, and the team were able to reflect – excuse the pun – on the triumphant piece. ‘We had no intention of building it big 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,’ commented McClellan.  ‘It blends the architectural surroundings and yet it has a strong presence.’

The completely interactive piece, with individually-controlled LED pixels, has surpassed all expectations. It’s a remarkable structure which cleverly uses the capabilities of today’s technologies to draw passer-by in and allow them to watch in awe as the lights dance around the structure. It’s the perfect example of how a daring vision can become reality.


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