Dream Boat was commissioned for the Nanjing Youth Olympics

Realizing large scale stainless sculptures

Stainless steel is increasingly popular for large scale sculptures and public installations around the world. Companies that specialize in the creation of such pieces are both pioneers in the techniques required and promoters of this versatile material. Sino Sculpture is one such company that was created to produce works almost exclusively in stainless steels.
Article by Joanne McIntyre

Founded in 2000, Sino Sculpture Group is an integrated sculpture fabricating and consulting company specialising in the manufacture of stainless steel art works. Many of the pieces it produces are large scale installations destined for public spaces around the world. The company’s technicians have become specialists in producing hand-forged and highly polished works.

The Sino Sculpture site in Beijing, China covers five acres of land and comprises fabrication workshops, art studios, exhibition rooms and offices. The company was founded by Mr. Zhang Shuiqiu who is both General Manager and Technique Director. Over the past 17 years the team has honed its expertise in providing services for metal sculpture design, evaluation, optimization, fabrication and installation. In its relatively short history the company has worked with artists, designers, engineers, architects, and decoration companies from over 20 countries. To date it has created over 50 large pieces of indoor and outdoor sculptures, city monuments and building decoration which are installed in China, US, UK, Canada, Italy, Germany, France, Norway, Australia, Singapore, Mongolia and Hong Kong. Along the way it has won many prizes in different sculpture exhibitions both at home and abroad.

Sales and Management Director Ms. Alice Zhang explained company’s approach. “From the very beginning, our philosophy has been to focus on practice, self-innovation, the introduction of mature talent and studying advanced craftsmanship both at home and abroad. We have a strong focus on hand-crafted metal work and today the sculptures fabricated by our experienced workers meet and even exceed the industry standards in Europe and the US.”

Large scale challenges

The company most commonly uses grades 316 and 316L of stainless steel and sources its materials from a single supplier. Surface finishes are obviously of great importance to art works and the Sino team has fine-tuned its techniques for producing mirror polished, brushed, sandblasted, patina, and colour sprayed surfaces. The team has also adapted hand forging techniques for stainless steel sculptures as well as developing a mirror polish surface treatment.

“Working on large-scale stainless steel artworks presents a unique set of challenges,” explains Alice. “On items with a large mass it can be difficult to control the surface flatness. The seams are not easy to handle, and with large items it can be difficult to achieve (uniform) polishing. Another challenge is that different project teams may be working around a sculpture at the same time – for instance building construction teams may be working in the same area – and this adds to the difficulty of installing our works.”

“The pieces we make are sent all around the world, and travel presents its own challenges. The sheer size of some items means that they sometimes don’t fit into normal shipping containers. Obviously the pieces must be well protected when they travel to prevent any scratches or dents on the mirror polished surfaces.”

Translating artistic vision

The Sino team do not design their own artworks, but rather are commissioned by clients who are typically artists, sculptors, architects, galleries and architecture firms. “Sino Sculpture produce high quality artworks for artists from all over the world,” continues Alice. “Each artist wants to create their work in a unique artistic language, material, surface treatment and method. What we do is offer the best solution to achieve each artist’s creation."

“We begin by producing a mold (maquette) enlargement then progress to structure calculation and fabrication. When working with stainless steel we can provide forging, casting, mesh sculpture and mixed-metal fabrication. The final steps are mirror polishing, installation and quality inspection. Throughout the process we keep in close communication with the artist to discuss any difficulties that may occur.”

The company has been a pioneer in the use of 3D mold creation and 3D printing technology to achieve sculpture design, analysis and optimization. This technique increases efficiency in terms of sculpture accuracy and artistry before and during the fabrication as well as during installation.

“We first started using 3D mold technology in 2012 to optimize little details in the artists’ design and calculate the most reasonable and strong inner structure,” explains Alice.

Architectural projects

Sino Sculpture has fabricated many works in the cooperation with architects explains Alice. “Typical commissions include metal decorations, metal moulds, stainless steel facades and landscape sculptures. We’ve been awarded the BALI National Landscape award in the UK and we’ve also been awarded by the American Society of Landscape Architects.”

In 2016 the team worked with a renowned London architect Papa Architects on a project in the Medi Oliver Mehras’ garden installation at Kensal Green Cemetery in London. The yellow granite structure features a dome roof measuring 23 meters in length and constructed of stainless steel grade 316 with a patina finish.

One of the most iconic structures the company has made is ‘Dream Boat’, a 50m long mirror polished 304 stainless steel sculpture completed July 2016 for the Nanjing Youth Olympics.

Building a cloud

The largest stainless steel sculpture that Sino Sculpture has ever produced was part of the MOCAPE (Museum of Contemporary Art & Planning Exhibition) project in Shenzhen, China. The massive Communication and Information Cloud sculpture measures 40 meters in length and is 28 meters high. Designed by architects Coop Himmeblau, the Cloud is manufactured from stainless steel grade 304 and features a mirror polish.

“It was a very challenging project due to the limited time we had for completion; in all we had just five months to manufacture and install it,” explains Alice. “The Cloud was completely hand-forged and the surface contours and mirror polishing made it a difficult project from an operational perspective. At 40 meters in length it was a massive project to complete. To make sure it was completed on time and to specification we took on additional senior technicians, further developed our highly polished surface techniques and used our most experienced project team to organize all activities.”

For more information about other sculptures and the endless possibilities for realizing artistic visions with stainless steels, see the website: www.sinosculpturegroup.com

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