Part light fixture, part sculpture, the Veil installation at the Conrad Hotel in New York City wraps an incredible engineering feat in an exoskeleton of grace and beauty. Inspired by other architectural features within this luxury hotel, the upper and lower sections of the Veil are connected by 16 miles of glowing cables, creating an awe-inspiring, unforgettable visual tableau for visitors.
We were awarded the Conrad Veil project thanks to our reputation for doing extreme work. The word “extreme” describes pretty much every aspect of our role. The sculpture involved an upper veil and a lower veil, connected by more than 1,600 individual ropes. The upper level is box beam construction and the lower level comprises a series of irregularly shaped “rings.”
From a logistical perspective, the first challenge was that the upper and lower levels were overseen by different companies, and we had to bid on each half separately. We were fortunate to win both contracts – dividing the work among two organizations would have made this job even more complex.
Led by Feature Walters, our most important role in creating this structure was in the planning and foresight to preemptively anticipate challenges. We then oversaw manufacturing and installation of the Veil.
Installation on this project was a huge challenge. We had to hoist the structures up to the working level on 13 storeys of scaffolding through a small hoistway. Everything had to be sized to fit through that opening and assembled in the air. The sculpture was all cantilevered, so if it were all steel, the weight would have exceeded the capacity of the bolts. So, we switched to aluminum, which brought us within the weight capacity of the bolts. None of the objects we hoisted was more than eight feet long. The sculpture is riddled with zero clearance joints and they just disappear, even under close inspection.
Then there were the ropes. Each of the 1,200 unique ropes connecting the beams to the rings had to be equally tensioned and accurate to its position. We needed to adjust the tension in a single pass so we developed a self-tensioning system. This eliminated the need for recursive adjustments and took what would have been a year on-site to install down to weeks.
Each rope in the final sculpture hangs at a different angle, depending on where it is moored on the lower level. This created one final challenge, a bit of detail that needed its own attention. Ropes were housed in clevis fasteners that pivot on bolts mounted in the upper structure. If the pivot wasn’t aligned with the final angle of the rope, it would create a kink. So, before the first hole was drilled, before the first I-bolt was positioned, Walters Group had mapped out its correct orientation to ensure a perfect final product.