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Claridge’s Christmas Tree by Burberry/Christopher Bailey

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For 2015, Claridge’s Hotel approached Burberry chief creative Christopher Bailey to design their iconic Claridge’s Christmas Tree for their lobby. Each year a prominent international designer is approached to create this icon of the Mayfair Christmas Season.

We were recommended to Burberry by Atelier One structural engineers, who we have worked with extensively. To create the tree on a very tight timescale we had to quickly develop and test various techniques to produce the mirrored umbrellas, some processes being discarded because they were too lengthy.

The design used  100 umbrellas – an icon of both Burberry and the UK – but these umbrellas were to be metallic gold and silver, a glamourous twist on an everyday item.

We set about creating a minimal stainless structure to hold both the umbrellas and the cabling which was required for the 76,000 motion-sensor activated LEDs to bring sparkle and life to the tree.

Due to the access restrictions at Claridge’s Hotel and the limitations on any extra lifting gear we made the structure in 7 pieces – the base and first layer  were in halves, a top cone section, and a spire  fitted to a central post to carry wiring down to the base, which held all the lighting control systems.

The umbrellas were made by stripping down three different sizes of umbrella frames, and working out the nets in shiny gold and silver vinyl, and heat-shrinking this to the frames. We developed nets of the correct size and cut out the patterns, then a small team dedicated their time to producing the umbrellas whilst other members of staff concentrated on building up the structure. We then worked in partnership with Light Initiative who developed the lighting to ensure all the cabling could be run down custom-made mirror polished conduits, which we attached inside the main stainless structure.

We used our CNC router to produce the base and horizontal structural elements from mirror-finished composite and plywood. These connected the TIG welded vertical stainless steel structural sections together and provided the levels where the form split for transport and access.

The tree was installed in Claridge’s Hotel overnight, by the Mike Smith Studio team, working together with Light Initiative and Burberry. So that guests who had gone to sleep with an empty lobby, woke up to the 6 metre tall sparkling tree, cascading with light, and the reflections from the umbrellas filling the space.