Shipshape solution: this bespoke display system adds drama to a historic collection of model ships

Shipshape solution: this bespoke display system adds drama to a historic collection of model ships

Energy supply group BP has one of the world’s largest shipping fleets, ferrying oil and gas around the globe. It also has a sizeable collection of model vessels–a scale model is commissioned when each new ship is procured. The collection is very valuable, with one model dating back to 1922. In 2003, BP began to consolidate its properties and businesses in southeast England and its shipping arm moved to new offices in Sunbury. The management did not want to relegate such an impressive collection to off-site storage, so commissioned Shopkit Designs to devise a new display system.

The models have flat-bottomed hulls and had previously been supported on brass upstands and housed in a variety of conventional display cases. Shopkit’s new custom-designed system runs up the wall of a double-height atrium, so the ships appear to float in space, adding to the visual drama.

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Models are stacked vertically, suspended on H-shaped cradles which lock into the existing brass upstands. The cradles are supported on four vertical cables running up from the floor to a new steel beam suspended between two existing circular columns. (As the atrium wall is non load-bearing, the display must derive support from the building structure.) The beam is attached to the columns by means of a specially designed clamping system and has two cantilevered outriggers that anchor the top of the tension cables.

Each of the H-frame cradles that supports the models has an adjustable collar that can be moved in two directions, to take account of variations in size (models currently range from 700mm to 2300mm long). This mechanism can also adapt to new models as these are commissioned. With the ships already attached, the beam and H-frame cradles were carefully hoisted into place. A glass and steel lectern at the base of the cables acts as a protective barrier and also carries graphics and specifications that can be read from floor level.

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The system was pre-finished off site in an effort to minimize in-situ work and disruption. Manufacture took around five weeks and the system was installed over three evenings. Additional ships can be housed either in new glass and metal cabinets, or substituted for one of the cable-hung versions by simply unbolting the model from its cradle. Elegantly minimal yet highly functional, Shopkit’s is a truly shipshape solution. C.S.

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COPYRIGHT 2005 EMAP Architecture

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group