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January can be a pretty low month for many after the highs of Christmas. This lull after periods of intense activity has an equivalent in buildings that we are very interested in, within our Creative Reuse team at FCB Studios.

Bath’s old Stothert and Pitt crane works is a site that can be read in a similar manner. The cranes to have come out of this site have been called “Bath’s most important contribution to world history”. After decades of busyness making the cranes that built the empire, the site has slowly yet steadily ground to a halt. Since closure in the late 20th C, its lull has lasted a good deal more than a month, but there is now a chance for this site to step out of its silent period, and into its next iteration.

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The Craneworks project (http://craneworks.org), looks to breathe new life back into the site, declaring itself as Bath’s creative quarter. This is a fitting reuse of the site, sits at the heart of our world heritage city, and is an amazing proposition for Bath’s internationally respected creative industries.
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Rolling back into December, Craneworks was the inspiration behind an installation piece we made. FCB Studios, Buro Happold, and Grant Associates came together for a Christmas event, to celebrate Bath’s creative industries. Younger (and I use the term very loosely!), members of the firms were invited to come together to create a piece to sit in Bath’s Octagon, to celebrate creativity in our home city.
Sited within the octagonal Georgian space, we sought to make a piece that brought together the grace and composure of Bath’s architecture (a simple, well proportioned octagonal box), alongside the ingenuity and creativity captured in the history of the Stothert and Pitt site (a triangulated “structural latticework” of an interior).
Making the installation was great fun, bringing together engineers from Buro, and architects from FCB. The first thing we wanted to ensure was that the piece contained as little embodied energy as possible. This meant we used large format cardboard, and from there on, the properties of this material drove many of the design decisions. Designs were tested through 3d modelling before translating these into 2d cut sheets, and through lighting software we tested the effects of illuminating the piece.
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To ensure the elements were strong enough at large scale, we formed triangular columns from the cardboard, that were strong in compression. To ensure the structure was as lean as possible whilst maintaining its strength, triangular sections were cut from the surfaces of the columns. A large scale laser cutting workshop was located very close to the cardboard factory, before being cut, scored and delivered, to our Bath Office. In the end, we had around 160 tall cardboard columns!
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Around 40 pieces (comprising of 12 different components), were glued together together to form the 4 quarters of the piece, which were then wired and lit using low energy LED’s. In total, each of the four elements was around 3.8m tall, and took around 15 watts to light, powered by a small battery in the base. To see the first corner come together in our Bath office was (literally!) a huge achievement, and very exciting for the build team to see. Upon completion of the final section, we took the components down to the Octagon, ready for installation.
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The final piece was dynamic- transforming through the evening from an introverted intriguing space, into a rich backdrop for speeches and presentations, and finally into a lantern gently illuminating the space well into the evening. It seemed a huge success, and was very well received on the night. But for me the real success was the coming together of Bath’s young designers, architects and engineers- to make something creative, contextual, and collaborative. The team was fantastic, and the success of the piece, and the evening, was really down to them.
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Bath’s creative industries came together to make something truly remarkable. It was inspired by our home city, it was of our home city, and it was for our home city. This inspires me to think of everything that Craneworks can be, and I can’t wait to see the site come Back to Work.
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