London-based Coventry Scaffolding has worked in partnership with world-renowned artist, Christo, on his first major work in Britain – the majestic ‘Mastaba’. Floating on the Serpentine in London’s Hyde Park until 23 September 2018. The enormous structure, formed of 7,506 horizontally stacked barrels, required the expertise of Coventry Scaffolding to deliver an infallible structural solution.
“This was a very special and exciting opportunity for Coventry Scaffolding,” says Coventry Scaffolding’s Managing Director and Project Manager, Paul White. “We have worked on large art installations before at the Tate Modern but when I said yes to ‘a project in Hyde Park’, I had no idea it would be floating on the Serpentine.”
First contacted by Christo’s team in February 2017, Coventry Scaffolding was required to spend a month in Bulgaria (the artist’s native country) to work on a third-sized version of the ‘Mastaba’ on the Black Sea to trial the soundness of the design before beginning on its larger counterpart in London. The weight of the scaffolding originally caused the floating platform to sag in the centre but White and his team resolved this issue by placing a steel grid on top of the floating piers and this resulted in a firm and durable structure on which they could erect the scaffolding.
As part of a 100-strong project team from Austria, Belgium, Switzerland as well as England and Bulgaria, Coventry Scaffolding began to build the ‘Mastaba’ on the Serpentine on 23 April 2018. It took two months to complete and scaling up to the full 40m x 30m x 20m of the structure required additional rigidity by bracing every line of scaffolding along the length and breadth of the steel frame. “It was most impressive how a team from all over Europe worked together to overcome the project’s many challenges,” comments Paul.
He continues, “There was a lot of maths involved. Because the dimensions of the barrels as well as the 4x3x2 proportions of the structure, were fixed, tolerances were down to the very last millimetre; it was doubly difficult because of course, the barrels had to go in after the scaffolding was erected. Plus, Christo wanted the barrels to look like they were floating on the water, so the scaffolding couldn’t be visible above the water line.“
Jerome Szeemann, Project Master for the ‘Mastaba’, says, “We approached Coventry Scaffolding because of their excellent reputation and were especially impressed with Paul’s enthusiasm for the project. Despite the enormity of the installation and its challenges, Coventry Scaffolding’s skill and determination have ensured the ‘Mastaba’ is a great triumph.”
Hailing from Ancient Egypt, a Mastaba was a tomb-like funerary monument. Christo’s 650 tonne structure in Hyde Park is open to interpretation by visitors and will remain free to view for the public. The ‘Mastaba’ flaunts stunning red, blue and mauve hues, complementing the park’s greenery and embellishing the West London skyline.