When Kate Gould set about designing ‘City Living’ for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017 she was very keen to include light transmitting materials into the hard landscaping. Kate initially considered buying in some light transmitting concrete for a large wall area but taking into consideration the fact that the garden is being self funded, the team decided to get creative with ways to get innovative materials as cost effectively as possible.
After watching a few Youtube videos on making your own light transmitting concrete, Kate and the team decided to conduct some in office experiments involving playdough, modelling clay, several hundred optical fibres and a bag of pre mixed rapid drying cement. When lit from behind the samples lit up beautifully and let a decent amount of light through the concrete. At this stage, Diespeker & Co were contacted to see if they could help turn the design into a reality. More moulds were created using modelling clay bases, and taken to Diespeker.
John Krause from Diespeker says Kate Gould’s team came with a very clear design brief for the terrazzo panels and were impressed with the way they had thought to create a mould with a clay bottom layer.
Using the provided mould, Diespeker generated their own sample; pouring their own bespoke-made terrazzo mix (a light grey background mix with Bardiglio marble chippings, 3-5mm) around the hundreds of fibre optic filaments stuck into the clay. The key was to avoid knocking the filaments out of place. The clay bottom layer was then removed and the sample ground and polished to ensure a beautiful evenly finished sample panel.
Following the success of the Diespeker sample, it was time to get the wheels in motion and supplies ordered ready to create 28 square metres of light transmitting terrazzo. Bespoke aluminium trays were individually fabricated to house the terrazzo whilst polysterene panels were ordered for the base instead of clay in the hopes this would be less messy!
3.8 miles of fibre optic cable in varying thicknesses was ordered and delivered to the office chopped up into over 81000 individual pieces by the KG team using various ingenious (and occasionally scary) methods including angle grinders and secateurs. This process took just over a week utilising the entire KG office staff. The different sized fibres were then weighed and divided by the number of trays to ensure there was an evening spread of fibres in each panel.
The team then headed to Wales to collect the trays from the fabricator and spend the weekend individually poking thousands of fibres into their polystyrene bases inside the trays. This transpired to be a far longer task than anyone could have imagined that weekend, resulting in every member of the KG team roping in friends and family members the following week to help stuff the fibres into the trays in time to meet Diespeker’s deadline to pour the terrazzo in time for the show.
Through sheer determination, and at the cost of a few fingers, the deadline was met and the panels are now in work! Come and see them at ‘City Living’ Plot 72 at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.
Images by Helen Fickling.