One of the notable features of The Breaking Ground Garden at RHS Chelsea this year was the dark grey wall that formed the boundary.
Partly inspired by neurological connections in the human body - neurons and synapses being the transmitters of thoughts - it had the handwritten messages of over two hundred students of Wellington schools in the UK and China etched into it in wave-like pattern echoing a synapse.
It was, of course, made of DesignClad and gave us one of the most challenging uses to date of our exclusive and innovative wall covering, requiring extensive testing of drill bits to find the optimum size that both allowed the scanned handwriting to retain its character and was robust enough for the job.
What made designers Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam choose DesignClad? “We were going to do it in copper,” says Gavin. “The garden’s about education and creativity, neurological connections. Copper transmits electricity. We were also going to laser-cut the type, but immediately realised that was problematic as we’d lose the centre of the letters and have to pin them separately onto the backing.”
They also wanted a material with an inherent strength, especially as the wall would be transferred to Wellington College after the show. “But we wanted something lighter than stone, too,” says Gavin, “and something that read as a continuous surface.” That meant no horizontal joints interfering with the flow of words across the wall.
Happily, DesignClad is available in ultra-large sheets of 3000mm x 1000mm which was the perfect unit size. Then came the colour choice. “We looked at Corten Steel and DesignClad Corten Steel but they were too visually dominant and detracted from the planting,” explains Gavin.
DesignClad Dark Steel, however, not only formed a less intrusive backdrop, but had an additional benefit. “When etched, Steel Dark revealed the ceramic underneath, creating depth and shadow. A lot of what we were doing in the garden was playing with shadow and light.” It resulted in quotes that, precisely etched by our CNC machines, were easy to read even for bystanders on the edge of the garden.
And the final plus to using DesignClad? The panels easily unscrewed from the Tricoya™ backing and were light to transport. They’re currently in storage, awaiting installation into a new building at the school.
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