All projects, however monumental, come and go; sometimes there’s hardly time to catch your breath. No sooner are things underway than the deadline looms and the race is on; dominating my waking hours. Sometimes the odd sleepless night. Intense but short lived. A sprint. With work completed and work installed it’s over. Closure; and with closure comes peace. Not time but projects have defined my working life.
The just completed 8m high bronze façade on the side of a the lavish beach house in Kuwait was a different affair. KBH as it’s known to us turned out to be more of a marathon; the finishing line always slightly out of reach.
Contracted by London designers Studio Reed in 2007 our biggest project ever, started well. Soon hiccups turned to hold ups. You don’t need to know all the details. Why it took so long. Put it down to the nature of the project. History now reflected on in the form of lessons learned. All these years the project’s been there, sometimes tucked away in the back of my mind, almost forgotten but never going away. Just as it’s fading the KBH email arrives and off we go again.
It is a huge piece of casting, this façade. It lay on its back, a giant undulating table; a bronze landscape, filling our workshop in Wales.
Finally the day came to ship and we arrived on the site to fit it.
Welding, grinding, sanding. Vertical now. High up on a cherry picker in the glorious winter Arabian sunshine. The noise of our tools drowning out the distant call to prayer. Below us a small army of workers, also far from home, watched, waved and shouted words of encouragement as they went about their
Several trips were needed to iron out the snags and finally we returned to finish the patination. A wall of bronze too hot to touch with bare hands in the blistering sun. The heavy doors cut into the façade could be the entrance to an ancient temple. Or a bank vault. Or a bunker.
Escaping the scorching midday heat, I sit quietly in the stillness of the shady garden; in its own way as lavish as the house. Amongst fig and olive trees that don’t belong here. Hand picked by designers, flown in and planted to complete the illusion. A natural façade complimenting the greenery of our metal one. Three birds that also don’t belong here play in the computer controlled fountains, programmable to give a hundred different displays, I’m told. They splash around in water purified by chemicals and I wonder if they are also being controlled by something other than nature.
Precious crates are arriving and I watch the procession through our door as the poor carry in the riches that fill this modern palace to overflowing. Some were made by us and later I wander nervously around the house on a treasure hunt looking for ours.
I let it all go. The absurdity of it all. My moments of frustration and hope. The heat. The sweat. The worries. It’s only work after all. I wished at times I could have run away, forgot about it; but that’s not me. I wish at times it was. Each time I returned with enthusiasm and each time escaped, only to return again.
This time it’s different. I sit in the garden and I look up at our work. Our graft. This bizarre piece of theatre. This thing that has haunted me for so long. My nemesis. I let this go too. For the first time I see our achievement. I see beauty for its own sake. I see a work of art. I have closure. I have peace.