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The FLIPSIDE: Circular concrete door and feature wall for a multi-sensory exhibition at The Old Selfridges hotel, London

When planning the visual concept for  a major exhibition in central London, it was LIVING CONCRETE that the organisers of THE FLIPSIDE chose, asking us to create a bespoke concrete front entrance and a concrete interior feature wall.

In what was described as a multi-sensory exhibition, THE FLIPSIDE brought a group of high-end designers to a unique space within the Old Selfridges Hotel at 1 Orchard Street, London W1 – a disused building right alongside the famous store.

Louis Vuitton, Thom Browne, Gareth Pugh, Byredo, Loewe, Mr Lyan and Google’s Pixel 2 had each been invited to create their own installations for the space.

As you might imagine, this wasn’t to be just any old door set in any old wall. What the organisers had in mind was something that visually embodied the concept of FLIPSIDE. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a disc came to mind.  The design they’d conceived was a round door that would stand upright on its edge and rotate on its axis, much like a coin about to be spun – only much, much bigger!

To bring this idea to life, we cast ten separate panels that would fit together to form the disc. In addition, we made multiple shaped panels that would form the wall in which the disc would be hung. As the first object of this kind we’d tackled, and at something of a scale, solving the moulding requirements and understanding where the tensions would occur in the piece was only the first part of the challenge.  We used a lighter-weight concrete with super durability to allow for maximum strength under movement. The ten concrete panels of the disc were firmly mounted and bolted together, and once the wall panels were in place, we could start to hang the door – now standing at 3.6 metres high! We’d devised a central rod system on which the door could pivot open and close, or safely stand open to admit visitors all day. Everything was millimetre-sensitive – obviously the last thing that was needed was a door that moved awkwardly, wavered or got stuck, or let the elements in when it was closed. It was, of course, a perfect fit.

The effect of the door in situ is impressive.  It leads guests into a dark tunnel that in turn leads into the body of the hotel where the exhibits are housed in their individual spaces.

Inside the building, an old stairway featuring attractive wrought iron balustrades was a perfect partner for some intriguing light-work. Here the organisers needed a large feature wall to be erected between two flights of stairs. The scale of the space meant casting more specially designed large panels for the space. The main challenge this time was access. Bolting large concrete panels into place floor-to-ceiling on a stairway is no mean feat…

The result was a simple yet interesting backdrop where several elements meet: Projected light picks out intricate ironwork, which in turn casts beautiful moving shadows that appear, flow and fade over the surface of the panelled and bolted concrete wall.

THE FLIPSIDE exhibition was open from April 26 – May 20th 2018. During this time, thousands of visitors enjoyed this Radical Luxury experience and took in special tours. Ballet Rambert also staged an electricifying site-specific performance in the space by dancer and company leader Benoit  Swan Pouffer.

The project took 8 weeks to complete, with three days on site. Despite the unusual nature and challenges of the commission, we encountered no problems and our customers were delighted with the result.  The Old Selfridges Hotel was transformed and visitors marvelled at the huge circular door as they entered and went Flipside.

THE FLIPSIDE On the site of the old Selfridges hotel at 1 Orchard Street, London W1A



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