Sacred Circles

January 3, 2017

(Australia) – Design firm Bates Smart found what it was looking for in lighting design firm Willowlamp’s work, with lighting sculptures that take their inspiration from the ancient Indian Mandala.

Drawing on the Mandala as an ancient Indian symbol of unity and circular wholeness, Australian-based Bates Smart turned to South-African lighting firm Willowlamp to create its most stunning art chandeliers to date at Crown Towers Perth.

Bates Smart’s Interior Design Director Jeff Copolov worked closely with Associate Director Kendra Pinkus, drawing on a wealth of experience designing luxury spaces, to create the highly refined lobby, cocktail bar, atrium and ballrooms.

Copolov commented: “TheCrown Towers brand is synonymous with the ultimate in luxury, so it’s important that the guests feel that in everything they see and touch.”
The scale of space at the Crown Towers Perth was vital to Bates Smart’s scheme, allowing guests to feel a sense of occasion and to celebrate the grandeur of the hotel while experiencing a strong connection to the wider resort landscape beyond. Copolov commissioned Willowlamp’s Creative Director and Founder Adam Hoets to design a bespoke series of four chandeliers to feature in the lobby of the hotel. These pieces, each weighing three tonnes, were unveiled for the first time in December 2016.

Hoets commented: “We were first contacted about the project in 2014. Bates Smart discovered a lighting design we made for an office building the UAE, which was a massive extruded geometric Mandala. The initial brief for Crown Towers was four giant-sized 6m diameter Mandalas. This would have been virtually impossible but we adapted the design and developed four clusters of three fused Mandalas.”

The Crown Towers chandeliers are a customised variation of the existing Willowlamp design, the Mandala No. 1, inspired by sacred geometric patterns. The Crown Towers variation was broken down into clusters, with each cluster encompassing approximately 40,000m of ball chain, lending each considerable weight. Illumination for these pieces comes from 150 LED G9 lamps per cluster, chosen to maintain a modern look and provide a spark only offered from small, intense lamps.

The design and installation of four clusters on a seven-metre high ceiling posed a new challenge to Hoets, with the pieces being the largest Willowlamp has ever created. “The main challenge was the sheer mass and scale of the installations,” he said. “Each drop cluster is 5.5m long and 3.5m wide, and weighs three tonnes. The installations had to be installed flat against a ceiling at 7m working height with no lifting platform able to reach that height.”

The design was extremely complex due to the constraints in the sheet size of the laser cut metal frames. The highly intricate geometric pattern had to be segmented into separate elements, which needed to be done in a way that allowed the three Mandalas to intersect one another.

“The hidden bit of genius is the system we developed to cut the chain to the required lengths,” continued Hoets. “When you consider that the geometric patterns made by the extruded chains curve into two planes, you can then imagine how difficult it was to develop a cutting schedule of chain lengths for each of these chains where the form is curved in two planes. In the end, we had the ingenious idea of turning a CAD drawing into a type of database – that was the hidden solution. But at the outset of the project, I had sleepless nights trying to imagine how it could be done.”

The next design challenge was the massive weight of the chains. “We couldn’t have all the chains going right to the ceiling, and it also would have been very difficult to cut such long lengths of chain accurately,” said Hoets. “Our solution was to have a hidden dropped tier within the mass of the light, which meant we could assemble the upper and lower tiers separately. This allowed us to work on separate parts simultaneously, thereby dramatically reducing assembly time.”

The installation itself was another extremely challenging aspect of this project. The design team, engineers and project managers came up with numerous ideas before arriving at a workable solution.

“We eventually decided to install each of the clusters’ three components individually. The first step was to attach structural fixing plates to the underside of the ceiling. A huge gantry with electronic pulleys and hoists with cables leading up into the ceiling would then lift each of the three modules into place, one at a time. This had to be designed and engineered for this one purpose and was an engineering challenge in itself.”

Throughout the process of working to create this challenging installation, the brief itself went through its own developments. It changed from being four 6m diameter single Mandalas to four 5.2m long, 3m wide and 3.5m drop cluster Mandalas. “The shape of the profiles also had to become more feminine and tiered. I transposed the profiles in the archways of the Taj Mahal as I was working on the design while on a trip to India, giving the tiered shapes a beautiful form.”

As a result of a painstaking and careful collaboration with a client who recognised that lighting is a fundamental design feature, Willowlamp was able to produce an awe-inspiring installation. At Crown Towers, light ties in with space seamlessly, not as an afterthought, but as an integral element to creating the ultimate guest experience.

Pic courtesy of George Apostolidis