Dave Giddens Sailmakers

Project name: Te Nukuao
Material used: Sundream by Hira0ka
Fabric Supplied by: W Wiggins Ltd
Components Supplied by: Fineline Marine
Designer: Tessa Harris – Artists
Fabrication Company: McConnell Dowell – Fabricated Structures
Graphics: Omnigraphics

What did the client request?

Our client planned to construct a large public art installation designed by artist Tessa Harris, who took inspiration from waka-hourua, the twin-hulled sailing canoes said to have brought the original Maori settlers to Aotearoa. The project formed part of a larger programme of work to upgrade the infrastructure of Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter in preparation for the 36th America’s Cup.

We were engaged early in the delivery process to assist the engineers and architects to settle upon a solution that would meet both the specification of the artist and the demanding requirements of a long-term public art installation that would continue to stand well beyond the America’s Cup.

We spent many months going back and forth – suggesting, contributing and testing various aspects of the delivery, including things such as fabric choice, printing, coating and fixing/lashing techniques. Whilst time consuming in the early stages, this process was of great benefit to us in the long run because we had a big hand in deciding what and how things would be made, according to our preference.

What is unique or complex about the project?

Just prior to manufacture it was decided that it would be preferable that any joins in the fabric not be visible from the ground looking up. This was achieved by designing joins to run along the lattice-work of the steel structure. This complicated panelling somewhat because of the asymmetric nature of the structure. We loaded the plans for the structure into CAD and then worked to create panels that followed the lattice work nature of the structure while staying within the width of the chosen fabric. This resulted in 27 irregular-shaped panels, and a number of joins that were not straight.

The irregular shape of the panels made achieving good fabric yield challenging. Nesting algorithms were run a number of times to achieve the best possible fabric yield – left to run for a few hours, this software ran millions of iterations of panel layout and rotation to achieve the best possible fabric yield.

Having optimised the fabric usage, the panels were then recombined and prepared for print and manufacture in CAD. As well as overlaying and printing the artwork, a number of colour-coded elements were added to the print output – this included: finished outlines, cutting lines, eyelet placements, panel numbers and alignment check-marks. Panel numbers and check-marks proved invaluable when bringing together the trimmed out panels, which had all been muddled up as they were rearranged and rotated during the nesting process.

What were the results of the project?

As with most large-scale projects, the shade component comes towards the end of the project, when timelines get compressed in an attempt to make up for overruns on other stages of the project. The structure that we needed to take final measures from was only installed two weeks prior to a planned powhiri to celebrate the completion of the final stage of broader infrastructure works carried out in preparation for the 36th America’s Cup – and the powhiri was to be held under Te Nukuao! We managed to call in a few favours at our printing partner to have the panels printed on our fabric overnight over three separate nights as we worked hard during the day developing and exporting designs and print outputs for each of the three planes. The project was completed in time (just!) and the powhiri went ahead as planned – rain or shine, thanks to the shade sails!

When we returned recently to take photos for our awards entry – it was pleasing to see the public using the structure as a place to shelter from the weather (the sun on this particular day), and others walking around the structure and taking it in, as a piece of art. This installation definitely achieves its planned dual-purpose as both a public art installation and a place to gather, shelter and enjoy.

We’re proud to have played a part, and happy to see the products of our industry used in such a visible and public setting.