Inspiration: Temporary Structures - Evolution of the species

As events become complex, temporary structures must be up to the task.

DE BOER

After encountering a number of planning issues, the delayed Great Leighs racecourse development finally opened this month, with De Boer's new double-decker grandstand as its centrepiece. The 150m x 15m facility, known as the Emperor, is sited at the 17th furlong of Britain's first new horse-racing track in 80 years.

The Emperor debuted at last year's Ryder Cup golf tournament and boasts a 5m-wide balcony along with bar, restaurant, betting hall and offices.

A single load-bearing central pillar on the ground floor creates a clear-span upper level.

"It's a massive boost to our project and will be a big talking point in the racing world," says Great Leigh chairman John Holmes.

De Boer spans Europe to the United States and its 80-strong product portfolio ranges from the 3m x 3m City Cottage to the Pink Galaxy, which covers more than 9 sq m. Clients can also hire heating and air-conditioning systems, furniture, floral decorations and sanitary facilities.

Tel (01280) 846500

Web www.deboer.com

WHITE CANVAS

Anyone who's anyone is likely to have quaffed champagne or feasted in a White Canvas marquee. The upmarket supplier has been involved in some of the UK's most glittering gatherings, including 10 Downing Street's summer party and Conde Nast's Vintage Vegas summer bash.

More recently, the firm supplied a marquee village comprised of dining, reception and children's creche tents for the prestigious UBS Gold Cup fixture at Cowdrey Park Polo Club. The combination included the 12m x 12m Mughal, along with a 24m x 12m pole tent.

White Canvas aims to remain in the vanguard of innovation with its latest creation, the Atrium. This 18m x 30m pole tent features a two-tiered roof and holds 500 seated or 750 standing. Modular in design, it breaks down into 18m x 12m or 12m x 12m units. The growing demand for mini marquees has also convinced the firm to launch a collection of garden tents or "outdoor rooms" for small-scale events.

Tel 0870 321 3007

Web www.whitecanvastents.com

BATTERSEA EVOLUTION

Dangling cars from the top of a marquee was unthinkable a few years ago.

Today, however, daredevil displays are a reality, demonstrating just how far temporary structures have come.

Battersea Evolution, the new name for Battersea Park Events Arena, epitomises this transformation. The 5,500 sq m clear-span venue, a joint venture between Quantum Leap Events and Owen Brown GL Events, has been enhanced with a £1m "super structure" enabling clients to suspend just about any heavy object.

The central London venue can withstand 140mph winds thanks to aluminium double-skinned walls and a roof that supports 2.5 tonnes per 5 sq m. It features a 750 sq m glass-fronted atrium and self-contained kitchen, hi-spec toilets, cloakrooms, offices and free car parking.

Available throughout the year, excluding July and August, and costing £25,000-£30,000, Evolution holds up to 2,200 for dinner and 3,500 for cocktails. It hosted a variety of festive parties in 2006 for corporate clients that included Haymarket Publishing and Amex.

Tel (020) 7836 1035

Web www.batterseaevolution.co.uk

PIGGOTTS MARQUEES

Piggotts Marquees can be squeezed into the most unexpected places, as demonstrated by The Roof Gardens, where an exclusive nightclub was created for Christmas 33 metres above London's Kensington High Street. Piggotts recently won a five-year contract to install bespoke tents in the gardens for winter events. "The marquees allow us to utilise the gardens when they would not otherwise be used because of cold, unpredictable weather," says venue manager Kirsten Falk.

The seven interlinked marquees, which were craned into place, serve as lounge, dining and reception areas. The reception tent, for example, is 10m x 8m and holds 100 standing or 50 seated.

"We used Piggotts for the first time in 2006," Falk adds. "We switched suppliers because the company offered bespoke marquees that fitted well in the tight space." Established in 1870, Piggotts' clear-span structures range from 3m to 25m in width, with the largest accommodating 6,500 guests standing or 4,000 seated. Tents can be fitted with various "Chinese hat" roofs, along with solid cassette flooring and hard walling that can feature glass windows and doors for some added style.

Looking ahead, Piggotts is supplying 30,000 sq m of structures at this summer's World Scout Jamboree, when 40,000 scouts will descend on Hylands Park, Chelmsford.

Tel (01277) 363262

Web www.piggotts.co.uk

WITNEY UK

Witney UK is aiming to differentiate itself from other marquee companies this year by offering bespoke "add-on" tents. These hexagonal structures provide stylish entrances and cloakrooms to any event marquee, says Witney UK boss John Bourne. The news comes hot on the heels of a £100,000 cassette flooring system that can support heavy objects such as cars and vans.

Witney UK's rental tents range from 3m to 25m in width and can host 100 to 1,000 guests. The firm is also the brains behind some of the South East's best-known long-term summer structures such as the Conservatory at Chelsea, the Palace Pavilion at Kew Gardens and Painshill Park Conservatory.

The three venues, managed by Witney UK's sister company The Ultimate Experience, come with high-spec lighting, sound systems, toilets and kitchens as standard, and can accommodate up to 600 for a reception or 400 seated.

The Palace Pavilion is a vital component of Kew Garden's summer offering, according to events manager Paul Gray. "It enables us to significantly increase dining capacity during one of our busiest periods," he says.

"Huge economies of scale are achievable by having a temporary structure in place for five months." Tel (01442) 286806 Web www.witneyuk.com

POLES APART

The annual Carphone Warehouse Ball - which has beome a stellar occasion on the busy corporate Christmas calendar - calls for temporary structures to be erected in some of London's most prestigious but challenging locations.

Enter Poles Apart. The 2005 Olympia event saw a 10m x 40m frame marquee craned onto a first floor balcony, clad in wood and then sprayed in fake snow to create a VIP log cabin. This Christmas, Poles Apart installed two interconnected 15m x 12m clear-span structures - costing £3,000 each - inside the Great Hall at Alexandra Palace in north London. The Bollywood-themed event involved bussing in 10,000 guests from all over the UK.

"Temporary structures are great for creating rooms within rooms at large indoor events," says Marcus Rendle, managing director of Hype Party Planning, which organised the event. "If they could be made slightly stronger, so that they have greater load weighting, we could hang more lights on trusses overhead to keep the floor space as clear and uncluttered as possible." Poles Apart offers structures up to 50m wide, including double-decker marquees, along with mobile bars, decorative finishes, lighting (spots, lasers, uplighters and flame-throwers), heating, air-conditioning and audio-visual systems.

Tel (020) 8755 1369

Web www.poles-apart.com

ARENA STRUCTURES

Arena Structures has just relocated Wembley's former temporary arena pavilion to Malta, creating the island's largest exhibition and conference venue.

The new facility, branded the Malta Fairs & Convention Centre (MFCC), opened in December and has already hosted an Andrea Bocelli concert for 8,500 fans, a clear indication of the scale of the space. Ruben Caruana, part of the MFCC management team, had been searching in vain for a new events venue until he spotted Arena's structure. "I was very impressed when I saw it in action as Wembley Arena Pavilion and at the London Boat Show," he says.

Evolve or die may be a hackneyed precept but it still rings true in the fiercely competitive marquee industry. With this in mind, Arena Structures has unveiled the Vantage hospitality system - modular interlocking units that can be stacked five storeys high. As a rough guide, Vantage comes as a basic lounge for 150 reception-style up to a hospitality suite for 3,000 standing. Special features include carpeting, a full-length balcony accessed via sliding doors, solid oak panelling and built-in kitchens on every floor.

Tel (01480) 468888

Web www.arenastructures.com

BACONINFLATE

Organisers expect marquees to match the comfort and versatility of permanent structures. With this in mind Baconinflate has unveiled Event Village, a modular system for combining its Event Station and Eventhaus marquees into a community of interlinking yet distinctly separate event spaces.

In a nutshell, it allows these models to be repeated in different formats and connected via inflatable tunnels, creating everything from VIP and chill-out areas to back-room catering and storage facilities.

Event Station comes in various sizes. The largest, which is 15m in diameter, holds around 150 seated guests or 200 standing, while its sister model Eventhaus ranges from 8m to 12m in diameter and accommodates between 80 and 90 standing. Added benefits include Rola-Trac flooring, LED dmx lighting and QuickTruss Multimedia frameworks.

The Event Village format, which has a starting cost of £2,500, was put through its paces during the recent Adobe Acrobat 8 roadshow run by Gyro International. The event kicked off in October in London's Regent's Park before touring the UK until December. "Whether you were in an urban setting or Regent's Park, they transformed the landscape and gave the wow factor we were looking for," says Gyro senior events manager Laura James.

Tel (01604) 766500

Web www.baconinflate.co.uk

ACCIO

Modern marquees are more than a match for Britain's weather extremes, as Accio's new high-tensile structures ably demonstrated at Daimler-Chrysler's 2006 Christmas party in Milton Keynes. A howling gale failed to dampen the festive spirit as 1,000 revellers quaffed champagne in a 20m x 50m marquee that featured solid glass walling and snow machines.

Guests then feasted in a connecting 30m-wide structure while being entertained by an eight-piece band, DJ, magicians and illusionists. David Bowen, Daimler-Chrysler event organiser, picks up the story: "How Accio achieved the deadlines for the build in filthy weather on such an exposed site is clear testament to the dedication of its staff. The company produced a first-rate product, exactly in keeping with the planning process, and the end product was stunning." The whole complex was manufactured by German-based Roder HTS Hocker and included a high-spec lighting rig along with first-aid, security and catering ancillary tents at the rear.

Hire cost is between £50,000 and £70,000 depending on requirements, says Accio managing director Stephen Casey. "This structure enables us to provide just about every feasible scenario that our demanding clients could require," he adds.

Tel 0800 389 6884

Web www.accioevents.com.


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