Imagine standing on the sidewalk and looking up 700 feet into the sky and thinking that this structure is impossibly high.
Now imagine being on the balcony of the 75th floor and looking down and thinking “I hope this building is solid”.
The public trusts that their buildings and bridges are safe and secure for them to use at any time. Neither wind nor snow nor loading conditions can degrade the prime directive of Engineers, Architects and Builders for public safety. This largely successful notion results in the confidence of people in their development professionals and their institutions. Ron Arad, renowned UK artist and architect, explored the interplay of artist and material while contemplating this concept and imagined, what has become a tribute to those people and organizations who do their jobs well. The notion of “Safe Hands”.
The Sculpture located at 1 Bloor St E in Toronto was commissioned by the Developer of that 76 story tower, Great Gulf. The commanding 88 foot tall pair of intertwined “spires” consists of 24” diameter steel pipes of varying wall thickness designed by Toronto’s Blackwell Structural Engineers. The steel pipes, or bones were fabricated by M&G Steel and provide the necessary stability and flexibility for the crushed stainless steel surface skin that was developed and applied by Streamliner Fabrication. Components were preassembled in Etobicoke and shipped downtown for installation by Stampa Steel erectors.
There were enormous challenges at every turn. This nontraditional structure had to be modeled extensively and connections for each of the components developed to resist any contemplated applied loads, including those during construction from the foundation to the highest point on top. The modelling provided CNC digital files which were used to ensure accuracy and to guide robotic equipment. Nothing was square on this project. All but one of the end cuts were beveled so precision skew cutting the 24” pipe required the large plasma cutting equipment and skills of Comco Pipe and Supply (Division of Russel Metals). The assembled pipe sections are 3D in nature and were sub-assembled by M&G Steel (Division of TAGG Industries) in Oakville by talented fitters and welders who relied on “old school” techniques to layout and set datum lines (with the occasional help of a Robotic Total Station radio controlled survey tool to verify control points). The various segments were shop pre-assembled to ensure fit in the field prior to shipping to Streamliner Fabrication. The bare steel was coated with a high performance zinc rich paint system to address corrosion protection for years to come. Subsequently, Steve Richards and the innovative people at Streamliner applied the stainless steel skin after crushing it in a custom designed hydraulic press to achieve the unique folds and never-to-be-repeated configuration. In Ron Arad’s own words, “…the secret of making things different is to try to make them exactly the same….”. The diameter of the assembly doubled from 24” to 48”and the high gloss surface cladding required enormous care in handling and shipping. In the wee hours of the evening, the Safe Hands were shipped into the experienced hands of Stampa Steel erectors. One of the busiest intersections of Toronto, Yonge and Bloor, was temporarily closed to permit a crew of night hawks (aka Ironworkers from local 721) to hoist and connect the Spires with hundreds of 1” diameter high strength bolts. The close proximity to the glass curtainwall coupled with challenging weather conditions and a restricted time line combined to test the crews who ultimately were successful in erecting one of Toronto’s most unique public art sculptures.
The combined efforts of a dedicated team which included the City of Toronto, developer Great Gulf, Artist Ron Arad, sous-artist Steve Richards, supplier Russel Metals, steel fabricator M&G Steel, erector Stampa Steel and the ironworkers of local 721 have resulted in an eye-catching piece of art and structure at the corner of Yonge and Bloor streets that will be celebrated for a long time to come.
Safe Hands now welcome and assure all of the ability and commitment to public safety from the team of professionals and creative artists who made this project a reality. There are fewer more unique structures in the City of Toronto nor beacons announcing the welcome to a prominent city address.