Landmark feat by Responsive

Work to create a stunning London landmark which will be visited by thousands of tourists a year has been completed by a Gateshead engineering company.

Work to create a stunning London landmark which will be visited by thousands of tourists a year has been completed by a Gateshead engineering company.

Responsive Engineering Group has spent around a year working on the £1m scheme to design, manufacture and install the striking phosphor bronze cone as part of the redevelopment of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

It is the crowning glory of a new, futuristic planetarium at the heart of the £15m Time and Space Project and one which Responsive says had confounded other potential contractors.

Managing director Peter Bernard said: "This is a highly prestigious project that posed a number of significant technical and logistical challenges that we have successfully overcome.

"Several companies had walked away from it. We were told it was an impossible feat by many people, including museum staff. They were at the point where they were resigned to it not happening."

Responsive has worked on high-profile architectural metalwork projects before, including the Scottish Parliament and Heathrow T5, but the Greenwich job had been particularly demanding.

Mr Bernard said: "This is quite an engineering achievement for the North-East - one of the biggest bronze fabrications in the world. It's 32 tonnes of phosphor bronze, and 8mm thick. It was manufactured in 18 segments like a Terry's chocolate orange.

"It all has to move with temperature and wind. The whole thing grows by about an inch in summer."

Mr Bernard said Responsive were supposed to work on the cone in mid-winter, but delays with other contractors meant they could not start until the summer.

He said: "We did not start until late June and did the work during July - the hottest month ever on record.

"When the project director Ian McClarence and the welders were working on it, they could not touch it - it was at 90 degrees. They did an absolutely incredible job. When I went on site, the site manager said to me our work was `British engineering at its best' which is just fantastic."

The panels of the cone were manufactured by Responsive using specialist waterjet cutting techniques and then conically rolled to shape. As well as the main cone structure, the company designed and manufactured a special steel frame to which it is attached.

Mr Bernard added: "We are hoping this is going to be a flagship for us. It's a huge achievement for everybody in the business and one we are very proud of, in terms of the tradition of engineering in the North-East.

"We hope it will help us when there are contracts for building the Olympic venues for 2012."

The company employs 95 people and recently announced a £2m investment programme to expand its sub-contract engineering services, and is aiming for turnover of £10m.

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