May 25 2022, by Fleetwood Urban

Transforming Adelaide Festival Plaza

6-metre hexagonal ‘tree’ arbours transform new Adelaide Festival Plaza precinct

We’ve been creating outdoor structures for over 50 years now. But some projects still take our breath away – like the towering interlocking ‘tree’ arbours we recently delivered for Walker Corporation as part of the $1 billion dollar redevelopment of Adelaide Festival Plaza for the State of South Australia. Just wow!

“"Part shelter. Part public artwork. The arbours provide much-needed shade, but they also deliver an architectural boldness that really catches the eye in one of Adelaide’s busiest public spaces. When you first see them, it’s just ‘wow’!" Mark Jol, Fleetwood Senior Design Technician.”

High profile, high stakes, high scrutiny.

Adelaide Festival Plaza is one of the most significant urban infill projects ever seen in South Australia. In addition to two new 45,000sqm office towers, Walker Corporation is also responsible for reshaping the 16,500 sqm public realm connecting the CBD with the River Torrens. To do it, they’re partnering with Fleetwood on the recommendation of landscape architects, ASPECT Studios.

Time was short. But the task was hugely complex. Develop, prototype, fabricate and install a series of highly intricate hexagonal arbours at the height of the pandemic – all in a climate of intense public scrutiny, and a 6-month deadline looming large.

“When Walker Corporation invited us to tender in mid-2021, they already had an arbour design and even a prototype, but they weren’t happy with it,” says Fleetwood Senior Design Technician, Mark Jol. “The clock was ticking. We needed to capture the intent of their original concept, but in a way that could actually work in the real world. The hexagonal design, in particular, was incredibly detailed with a complex mosaic of perforated mesh panelling.”

Mark and the Fleetwood design team rose to every challenge, as did the fabrication team shortly after. “Looking at the plans, the arbours were amazing structures. But creating them wasn’t easy,” says Fleetwood Project Lead, Joel Watson. “We set up a large jig in our fabrication facility (essentially a stencil) where small sections of laser-cut steel beams were laid out to form each of the hexagonal panels before welding. The team then repeated that process over and over, working double shifts, until there were enough hexagonal sections for each complete arbour.”

The challenges continued when each of the partially-assembled arbours arrived on site, 1,300km away in Adelaide. Massive weight-bearing slabs under each of the steel structures called for ultra-accurate detailing and anchor points. The Plaza itself was also tightly regulated and busy with live construction taking place around our installation crews, requiring the utmost of care and coordination.

The first six arbours were successfully installed in January 2022 – two months ahead of schedule – and are now open to the public. 10 more arbours are scheduled for completion in 2023, as part of Stage 2 of the Plaza. We can’t wait!

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