UK team engineer global water sculpture, unveiled at Muscat’s Royal Opera House
The Arches of Oman, a ground-breaking water 12metre high water and steel sculpture by inspirational artist Giles Rayner, and developed by the UK’s leading engineers, has been unveiled at the Royal Opera House in Muscat, Oman.
It is anticipated that the extraordinary work of art will become an iconic symbol not only in Muscat, but in the wider Middle East. At its location, next to next to The Royal Opera House, the country’s premier venue for musical arts and culture, the new sculpture offers unique views from all surrounding approaches, Its stunning design includes purpose built gardens, a purpose built pool, 70 water jets, a subterranean plant room and 2km of hydraulic hoses.
The sculpture’s jets provide four distinct patterns of water that project out of the piece and into the pool below. The sculpture is formed from Duplex, a stainless steel that is specified for extreme environments. Julian Glyn-Owen, the Commission Director for the artist, commented “Duplex provides enormous structural surface strength for the sculpture, the surface finish Giles and the client desired, and anti-corrosive properties needed in this coastal environment.”
In their design engineering role, Generative Parametrics, based in Melksham, played a key part in the story of The Arches of Oman. The double curvature of the sculpture required their highly specialist 3D modelling and design engineering skills. The company took Giles Rayner’s concept and developed it for fabrication, designing all components from the flat and curved surfaces, the nozzle housing and all other elements within the sculpture. Their modelling methodology was also used throughout the development and construction of Arches. Their parametric modelling techniques were central to the complex inter-relationship of the 69 water jets and brackets, access hatches, and the 1km of internal hose housing.
The fabrication of the designs alone required 12-months work. M-tec, a specialist division of WEC Group, worked from two sites, in Darwen and then at a second group subsidiary MTL, based in Rotherham.
Stephen Watson, responsible for fabrication of the sculpture said “Julian and Giles were highly motivated producing this large art piece. There was a strong team ethic from the outset; pooling ideas in group working sessions all over the UK. We frequently worked intensively together to develop solutions to some significant problems. This team was to be active throughout the three years of work and it has been a pleasure to have achieved such success with a delightful client in GR Sculpture Ltd and their design engineers, Generative Parametrics.”
The sculpture, once complete in the UK, required a significant shipping and logistics project to move to Oman. The total weight of all elements shipped was in excess of 50 tonnes consisting of specialist sculpture shipping jigs, water display pumping system and alignment rigs. Charles Kendall Packing and Freight managed the packing and delivery of the piece in five separate consignments over a ten-month period to Oman. Freight was moved as specialist wide-load escorted haulage down from Rotherham, then shipped out of Southampton and trans-shipped into Sohar, Oman before being moved 250km to Muscat.
Truck Oman North, an Oil and Gas drilling rig location business assembled the sculpture once it was on Omani soil alongside Giles and Julian. This took place during June 2017, throughout the hottest time of the year and the Holy month of Ramadan. Five cranes were used in the horizontal assembly of the piece, before it was lifted to the vertical and moved into position for fixing down. An 11 tonne framework jig was used to align the sculpture’s main components and lift it into place.
Locally throughout the project, Giles and his team enjoyed a wide cross section of support from community groups in Oman; including British ex-pats and The Anglo-Omani Society and local engineering firms such as United Engineering Services, LLC.
The completion of The Arches of Oman represents a triumph for this international team. Different parties were required to understand each other’s goals and, in some cases, to operate outside their normal capabilities to mesh these complex design requirements together in one sculpture. In his role as Commission Director, it was Julian Glyn-Owen’s task to glue these teams together and ensure that the end result was aesthetically perfect, fitting Giles Rayner’s vision for this massive water and steel sculpture. Julian heralded the “innovative and ground breaking” new landmark, and confirmed that the new feature has already garnered “significant international attention” since it was completed.
Giles summed this teamwork and British engineering ingenuity, “I am intensely proud of what we can achieve in the UK with both our industrial heritage and our thinking out of the box. I want us to keep our ability to create unique, bespoke creations, not just in the art world. Our versatility and imagination as a nation is significant; we must not squander it. I fear that this important aspect is not nurtured enough. Arches could be recognised as a very good example of how we can exercise sensitive and yet bold design and thinking in other parts of the world. I wish this design to be recognised not just as my vision, but also the creation of those vital people in the team – It should be recognised as their sculpture too and never just mine.”