The three-level atrium that connects the new Boyle Building to the existing buildings at Auckland University features a dynamic combination of the practical and the artistic with a wire screen fall arrest system developed in a collaboration between Ronstan Tensile Architecture and Metal Concepts of Onehunga.
Stretching from near roof-height of the third level to the second level floor, the combination of tensioned steel cables and primary-coloured shapes, evocative of DNA, clamped randomly to the verticals compliments the feeling of space and light that dominates the design of the building developed by architects Jasmax.
The wire screen fall arrest system both delineates the public circulation spaces of the walkways around the atrium, and provides an added safety balustrade without seeming heavy or restrictive, thanks to the innate strength of Ronstan Tensile Architecture’s 4mm (5/32″) stainless steel cables.
The upper level barrier has an 8mm (5/16″) top cable, with a large quantity of 4mm (5/32″) vertical cables evenly spaced along it and extending at 90 degrees through the use of Carl Stahl I-SYS® hidden thread clamps. These verticals continue to the slab level of the second floor wherever walkways adjoin the atrium void.
Because the upper-level cables are not fully-tensioned, an interesting deflection arc has been created between the support posts.
Other fixed and fully-tensioned horizontal cables proceeding down the array are clamped to the verticals and reduce the spreading of the verticals to maintain the required tension and coverage to ensure safety and fall protection.
The major challenge with the project was calculating the lengths of the vertical cables, and allowing for the curve of the spanning upper horizontal cable.
As a whole, the cable array presents a strong grid that prevents any person or large object entering the void space of the atrium. The hidden thread clamps which secure the verticals add an aesthetic which resembles the silver beads of dew on a spiderweb, and the cable array is further enlivened by the semi-helix shapes in blue, red and yellow that are randomly suspended on it.