Hobbit sculptures installed on NZ Post

KERRY MCBRIDE
Last updated 17:30 29/10/2012
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CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ

HOBBIT UP HIGH: Weta Workshop sculptures installed at the NZ Post building.

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It took eight designers, 56 tonnes of concrete and a whole load of lights to create NZ Post's monument to The Hobbit empire.

NZ Post approached Sir Richard Taylor and Weta Workshop in July to come up with a design for their Waterloo Quay building to celebrate The Hobbit premiere next month.

The team soon came back with a series of design options and a silhouetted depiction of Bilbo Baggins and his 13 dwarf companions was chosen.

The silhouettes will be lit up each night to stand out against the building five floors up and light up Wellington's skyline.

But while the silhouette style design was sure to be impressive, engineering a way for the six metre tall figures to withstand what could possibly be Wellington's windiest corner proved to be a challenge.

Sir Richard said it took eight people from his team at Weta an entire month to design and create the 14 figures, but the wind posed the biggest problem of all.

"It's quite a significant job with respect to the engineering. Because of the wind loading in that part of the city they have had to built quite substantially."

The figures have been made up of many sheets of plywood, but the cement loaded behind each shape made for an engineering challenge beyond the skills of the Weta team.

They enlisted the help of an external engineering and building firm to work out the best way to keep the large figures secure.

"Wellington is a very challenging environment relative to most other cities in the world, because of the wind and the dramatic shift in temperatures. Even over 24 hours it can change so dramatically."

With some tricky cement use and weighting of each figure, the display should now withstand winds of up to 140kph.

Of the design ideas put on the table, the silhouettes were far and away the best idea, Sir Richard said.

"It's certainly the best because it adorns their building and creates a great focus onto it. It's a really neat idea on a very large scale.

"They are an adventurous company who are doing some cool stuff on an art level so it was great to work with them on this."

Working on large-scale design projects were a lot of fun for the Weta team now that The Hobbit was wrapping up, Sir Richard said.

"This sort of stuff for us is an absolute joy because we love making large-scale art sculptures and installations. There's a great deal of enjoyment in doing this sort of stuff."

NZ Post sales and marketing manager Simon Allison said the silhouettes were the perfect fit for their building, and were the perfect high-impact design.

"The design utilises the NZ Post building and layout, but it also reflects what our Hobbit stamps are about as well, and what the film is about.

"It's about the characters going on an adventure, and they now walking on that adventure on top of the NZ Post building."

The display really comes to life at night when lit up, Mr Allison said.

"We really want it to be there for the summer and for the tourists coming into Wellington. We want it to be a real feature of the Wellington waterfront."

The silhouettes will be on the building until about March, after which Mr Allison is unsure what will become of the giant figurines.

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"We've had a few people ask if they can use them but haven't decided what we'll do with them quite yet. They're pretty big."

- The Dominion Post

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