The Bridge Works exhibition brings together the work of a number of creative agencies from across Kent, with their part in the exhibition co-ordinated by H&H Design, of Dartford. Garry Hall is the designer responsible for the overall look and feel of the exhibition, bringing the Rochester Bridge Trust’s history to life. He explains: “A large part of an exhibition designer’s job is developing the narrative, as without a beginning, middle and an end, the display can often feel rather aimless and unfocused.
In order to produce the storyline for this exhibition I spent a lot of time reading about the history of Rochester’s bridges and the Rochester Bridge Trust, as well as having meetings with the charity’s archivist, to ensure I fully understood the subject. “This project is particularly interesting because it is the first time I have been set the task of designing an exhibition which has two parallel stories to tell: without the bridge and the need to maintain it there would be no Rochester Bridge Trust, and without the Trust there would probably be no bridge – and certainly far fewer crossing points over the Medway.” Garry has put together an interesting and informative exhibition, liaising with various members of the Trust to combine history with education while ensuring this history is told in an engaging and accessible manner. Importantly, he has also created the exhibition using the services of local craftspeople: it’s important to the Trust to support Kent suppliers wherever possible and you can find out more about these organisations as we add to this website. The Bridge Works exhibition can be visited in the Crypt at Rochester Cathedral until 17th June 2018. Entry is free.
The main contractor for the Bridge Works exhibition is H&H Sculptors, the parent company of H&H Design. Their work includes the creation of five realistic life-size figures to help illustrate the story of the bridges. The posed figures were moulded in the sculptors’ Dartford studio, with individually life-cast hands created to enable them to hold the props necessary for their trade. As one of these characters is a child, it proved quite a challenge to find a suitable model.
Project manager Kathy Hall explains: “We had already constructed the figure into the pose, organised the making of his costume and sourced the correct type of besom broom that a young apprentice would have been using during the medieval period, but it took almost four weeks of searching to find the right hands. We finally found the perfect fit for the figure thanks to another local business, which volunteered their nine-year-old son to act as our hand model.” The characters are a Roman surveyor, a medieval stonemason and his apprentice, Victorian bridge engineer Sir William Cubitt, and a female Bridge Warden. You can find out their relevance to the Rochester Bridge Trust by visiting the Bridge Works exhibition. Kathy adds: “For over 30 years H&H Sculptors have supplied major museums and heritage centres all over the UK, Europe and as far away as New Zealand, so it’s really exciting for us to be involved in a project so very close to home.” The Bridge Works exhibition can be visited in the Crypt at Rochester Cathedral until 17th June 2018. Entry is free.
One way of helping people to visualise the bridges of the past is by showing them models, which is how MC Modelmaking Ltd came to be involved with the Bridge Works exhibition. Based at Chatham Historic Dockyard, the model makers were tasked with restoring one model bridge and creating another, as well as a number of other, smaller creations. The restoration was of a display thought to be from the 1980s, showing where the Victorian bridge was built in relation to the medieval crossing it replaced. Martin Earle, director, explains: “Restoring the old model was a challenge, as it was quite delicate in places and required a lot of care. There’s also the issue of how far to go? Since the model was created, techniques and materials have advanced, so we needed to strike a balance between reusing and replacing without affecting the vision of the original model maker.”
There was much more freedom in the creation of the new model, which is a tactile diagrammatic piece representing part of the Roman bridge. After conversations with the Trust, a sample and drawings were produced, followed by computer-aided design (CAD) precision plans. These then guided production of the bridge model, which was cut and assembled using a laser engraver and acrylic plastics. Spray effects depict the timber, stone and riverbank. Martin Earle added: “For almost 25 years, MC Modelmaking has been producing architectural models for projects all over the world, with clients including English Heritage and the National Trust. We work with designers, developers and museums to translate their designs into 3D models and interactive displays that engage, inform and excite visitors.” The Bridge Works exhibition can be visited in the Crypt at Rochester Cathedral until 17th June 2018. Entry is free.
Closely involved with the design and production of the Bridge Works exhibition materials was Faversham-based Blue Ant Limited. The company, which specialises in large format print, offered advice on materials and production of the exhibition graphics. This involved working on the typography, colourways, scanning reference works, image retouching and developing the artwork layouts. Blue Ant then used a variety of in-house methods to produce the exhibition panels, from direct printing to foamex panels, digital wallpaper and paper prints to MDF, all requiring high quality and accuracy.
Studio manager Johnathon Hunt says: “A fun aspect of the project was using one of our special techniques – direct printing to plywood on our Arizona UV Flatbed Printer – to reproduce panels featuring Langdon the Lion.” Jill Robinson, creative director, adds: “We’ve been providing bespoke graphic services across the event, exhibition, museum and retail sectors since 1991, producing everything from museum and exhibition graphics to fine art prints and venue branding. “We were delighted to be part of another project at Rochester Cathedral, where we’ve produced three other recent projects – Lest We Forget, Illuminating Beasts and Magna Carta Rediscovered.” The Bridge Works exhibition can be visited in the Crypt at Rochester Cathedral until 17th June 2018. Entry is free.
An important element of the Bridge Works exhibition is ensuring younger visitors are engaged with their surroundings, which is where Darius Wilson Associates came in. They built the interactive children’s area known as Langdon’s Den, as well as key elements of the display in the main exhibition, including the plinths, cases and arranging the sound effects. A detailed survey and design process was carried out before all the joinery elements were machined and assembled. This required close collaboration with HH Design and Blue Ant, to coordinate the process of incorporating pre-printed panels and interactive elements. Company Director Darius Wilson comments: “The ‘Build an arch’ interactive for children was quite a challenge.
Though this looks simple, fabricating something that needs to be robust, lightweight and soft enough for small children – as well as enabling them to experience building an arch using traditional methods – was not straightforward. “We made several prototypes and engaged the services of a furniture upholsterer to perfect the shapes and materials used. It was an interesting challenge and I’m pleased with the final creation.” Darius Wilson Associates is based in Faversham. As well as this exhibition, the company has also recently produced exhibits for London Zoo, The Royal Shakespeare Company Museum, The Cutty Sark and the National Army Museum. The Bridge Works exhibition can be visited in the Crypt at Rochester Cathedral until 17th June 2018. Entry is free.