Tell us about the early design brief
Our brief was to ensure the original design concept became a reliable, fully functioning reality, without compromising the creative intent. It was essential that it worked on the night
What inspired your design concept?
All aspects of the mechanical and engineering design were inspired and driven by the need to make the Cauldron work. Thomas Heatherwick’s design intent was paramount. The projects we undertake are often driven by the creative objective of producing something that has never been seen before. For us, this often results in developing never-been-done-before technology in order to deliver the creative vision. This was certainly the case for the London 2012 Olympic Cauldron. Heatherwick’s design depended utterly on the 204 stems rising gracefully from their lowered position to the vertical, bringing the 204 copper petals together to form the cauldron bowl. It was one of the most unusual and elegant devices we have ever worked on.
What challenges did you face along the way?
It was a complex device, posing numerous technical challenges. The design allowed for no margin of error and it was important that every detail was carefully considered. It took nine months of development, with our CAD team and workshops, working closely with the Heatherwick Studios team.
How did it feel to be involved in such a large and important British project?
It was a huge privilege! Working with people such as Danny Boyle and Thomas Heatherwick is inspiring in itself, let alone when the focus of the world is on your work and the setting is your own country.
Did you know…
- As secrecy was a vital ingredient of both the design and the manufacture, the Olympic Cauldron project was nicknamed ‘Betty’.
- We nick-named the huge stage lift, which lifted ‘Betty’ to stage level ‘Frank’ (re: 1970’s sitcom ‘Some Mothers Do ‘ave ’em’).
- The complete cauldron device consisted of 4,780 individual components.
- Each one of the 204 petals was a different design and each was etched with the name of a participating nation.
- The etching of each country’s name on each petal had to be distorted, (much like on-pitch advertising) so that when the petal was viewed front-edge on, the scripted words would appear to be consistent.