Unusual Rigging was approached by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) to solve two rigging issues. The V&A’s major exhibition galleries have plenty of headroom, but, historically, prior to Unusual’s solution, it had not been viable to hang anything due to a number of factors including restricted access.
“We were asked to design a system which would facilitate two things,” said project manager for Unusual, Robin Elias. “The first was a way of displaying two 10m x 15m theatre back-cloths by Picasso, in the North Court Gallery for six months for the Museum’s major exhibition Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes 1909-1929. The second was to create some way to facilitate the hanging of lighting and other electrical equipment for future exhibitions in the North Court gallery.”
A system which could be reformatted to provide a solution to both problems was called for. Unusual’s solution incorporates a quantity of Prolyte truss, initially configured in goalpost format, with a tiny footprint, stabilised with high level guy wires, to display the backdrops. The system has been reconfigured from the initial design for the Cult of Beauty exhibition into a square truss grid, which can now be raised and lowered at the touch of a button, powered by four 2,000kg D8 Plus Liftket electric chain hoists. This enables lights, sound, projection and scenic elements to be fitted to the grid at working height. Some 60m of trussing was used to create the grid.
“I used the expertise of our design department, plus a bit of ingenuity and problem solving to create this unique solution for the V&A to design, fabricate, install, commission and deliver our innovative and versatile system,” said Elias. “The Museum is delighted with the system, which is currently in use.”
Unusual’s engineering team carefully designed every aspect of the suspension system for the new grid. 30m of spreader truss and some intricate secondary steelwork was required above the false ceiling to distribute the imposed loads and to interface with the delicate roof steelwork, in order to position appropriate hanging points for the grid, and to satisfy the requirements of the V&A’s consultant structural engineers.
Image copyright Victoria & Albert Museum