Heathrow Airport officially opened to commercial air traffic on 31st May 1946.
And according to official statistics, this now-iconic air hub 14 miles west of central London processes 80.1 million passengers annually, serves 203 destinations in 84 countries and shipped 1.7 million metric tonnes of cargo in 2018.
But Heathrow isn’t just Britain’s biggest portal to the rest of the world, because it’s also concerned with important social issues. So when our clients Meads Construction asked us for help with an umbrellas installation aimed at increasing awareness of conditions like ADHD, we couldn’t rain on their parade.
ADHD and Autism are commonly used as umbrella terms for a wider range of neuro-developmental disorders including Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Dyspraxia – so the concept behind 300 umbrellas seemingly floating from the roof of Heathrow’s T5 is to raise awareness of the unique gifts, talents and contributions of people who suffer from these conditions.
A worthy cause indeed, but the project presented a particular technical challenge – how to engineer a level, flat framework which was strong enough to suspend the umbrellas from, while preserving the airport’s pristine public health and safety record.
The Ormiston solution
Mead Construction devised an ingenious plan to construct the required framework with steel cable suspended between the roof parapets, creating bespoke brackets, adding secondary and tertiary cables and then carefully tensioning the structure until the framework was created 10m above ground.
The cable was 6mm, 12mm and 1.5 mm galvanised wire rope, while the fittings were galvanised wire rope grips, shackles and Gripple fittings.
Within two weeks, we had provided key supplies for a complex yet visionary project which ultimately involved 3.5 km of cable, 3000 fittings and no less than one tonne of steel suspended in mid-air.
With only a one week lead-in and two weeks on site, Mead Construction had an extremely tight timescale.
But thanks to their amazing discipline and dedication and our technical input, the project was completed on time and the finished display looks absolutely beautiful.
The umbrellas are mesmerising and the message they creatively convey is nothing short of inspirational – this is one worthwhile project we’re immensely proud to have participated in.