m-bathstalactites-012309 Combining art, architecture Composite maker builds 18 ‘stalactites’ for exhibit
BATH — In wanting to expand their custom parts-building business to incorporate more renewable energy applications and architecture, Steve and Maureen Hassett had a unique project on their hands when they were asked to fabricate a set of 18 fiberglass "stalactites."
The Hassetts, owners of Custom Composite Technologies, were approached by the London-based firm of Zaha Hadid Architects last September to undertake the project on a six-week timetable, along with construction of a relief mounted to a wall of more than 20 feet. This allowed them just enough time to produce the smooth, shiny, dark-colored ceiling-hanging objects and the relief – both designed by former Baghdad resident Hadid – in time for their premiere at an exhibition of her work at the Sonnabend Gallery in New York.
"The timing was really tight," Maureen Hassett said on Tuesday. "Because the gallery was opening Nov. 1, there was no ‘oh, we missed it by a day.' You have to be on-time, race-ready."
Steve Hassett said the works are expected to travel to galleries around the world.
"It's basically like combining art and architecture," he said.
Hassett chose a team composed of people from Maine to Florida to carry out Hadid's fluid designs. They cut multiple intricate shapes that were joined in the composite step of the project to form both the stalactite and relief structures. A computer-controlled router cut the pieces to ensure accuracy. The cutting occurred at shops in Maine and Florida, and the pieces received a high-gloss finish in Rhode Island. Hassett said the paint was still drying as the pieces were taken from there to New York.
With the stalactites complete, the next hurdle was determining the best way to hang them from a ceiling.
"There was nothing but Sheetrock hanging from the ceiling of the gallery, so we had to create a structurally sound mount that could support the 18 individual stalactites," Hassett said. "It was like putting a giant jigsaw puzzle together upside down, working with pieces that weighed hundreds of pounds."
Bolts were ultimately placed into the tops of the structures, while the larger pieces were screwed into the ceiling.
Composed of a low-density foam and covered with fiberglass and sanded smooth, some of the stalactites weigh as little as 10 to 15 pounds, Hassett said. The largest – roughly 5 feet wide, 10 feet long and 8 feet tall – is about 200 pounds.
In the end, the Hassetts had a unique addition to add to their portfolio.
"You do what you need to, to make your customer feel good," Maureen Hassett said, "(and) make them look good."