When the new International Terminal at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai opened in January, 2014, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the Czech ambassador to India to personally express his amazement at the triumph of lighting design fixture Preciosa had created, in beauty as well as scope.
Considered a showcase of India’s cultural heritage, as well as a tribute to contemporary Indian design, the project, which aimed to set the global benchmark for airport aesthetics and marked one of the the largest investment in the lighting industry worldwide in 2014, was the result of three years of intense collaboration that included the Indian government, Czech dignitaries, the Indian engineering and construction firm Larsen & Toubro, Indian conglomerate GVK Power & Infrastructure and global U.S. architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
Winning the tender for the most prestigious investment in the lighting industry in India was a point of great pride and excitement for us. As was working on such an esteemed, high profile venture. But delivering on a three and a half year, four-stage project on such a vast scale brought new challenges. Not only did we have to meet the production, delivery and installment schedules, which called for two-hundred eighty meticulously designed lights comprising hand-blown glass and elaborate metal pieces per phase, we had to deliver each of them to exact specifications and at the highest quality. Yet with no room for error, the biggest lighting investment in the world has for us become one of our crowning achievements.
The exceptionally complex design of the lights was inspired by a lotus flower with its petals in different stages of bloom, from closed to blossoming to fully open. A hand-blown “open hourglass” piece sixty centimeters in height, the production of which requires exceptionally skilled and experienced glassblowers, forms each light’s center. Equally difficult, the flower’s petals are made of naturally finished brushed aluminum that had be laser-cut and shaped to perfectly express the designers’ vision.
The project called for more than a thousand lights, each identical and each comprised of three different elements, one of which was individually hand-blown for every single light. To hand-blow this many identical glass pieces of this size is in itself an incredible feat of skill, but that was only the start. Preciosa had to prepare the entire factory to meet the order and precisely schedule all parts of the production, shipping and installation process. Glassblowers, machinists, laser cutters, engineers, logistics and shipping specialists, managers and installers all worked around the clock to meet the demanding delivery schedule.
The project consisted of four stages, with two-hundred eighty exquisitely designed lights per stage, delivered over three and a half years. Each light, the largest of which measured two and a quarter meters across, was made up of three different parts, amounting to a total of 1,120 individually hand-blown glass elements, each identical to the next and measuring sixty centimeters in height, and 35,840 laser-cut aluminum flower petals, half of which were naturally brushed, the other half powder coated. It was this massive scope that made the project such an immense achievement of craft, skill, manufacturing and logistics.
With an order of so many pieces, shipping and installation presented its own unique challenges. Each delivery filled four shipping containers, with each item individually packed to ensure not a single piece would receive even a scratch on its six thousand kilometer journey through the world’s most storm-wracked seas. This was followed by an installation in extreme hot weather, where Preciosa’s twelve installers worked long hours over ten months to install not only the lights, but also each light fixture based on our own surveyor’s calculation of every light’s positioning.
Working from a design by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, each light is comprised of three elements, symbolizing the different stages of a lotus flower in bloom. At each light’s center, the hand-blown “open hourglass” sixty centimeters in height represented the flower when closed, to which we purposely added miniscule bubbles in order to create an organic, textured look.
Surrounding this are sixteen shaped and powder coated aluminum lotus petals in half-open state, each petal punctured by rows of laser-cut, leaf-shaped holes that reflect traditional Indian design as well as create a diffuse light effect. The final element is yet another set of sixteen gold-hued, naturally brushed and shaped aluminum lotus petals representing the flower in full bloom.
In total, the project consisted of 1,120 lights, to be manufactured, shipped, delivered and installed in four stages across three and a half years. This amounted to 1,120 individually hand-blown glass elements, 17,920 shaped aluminum petals punctured with precise rows of leaf-shaped holes and another 17,920 naturally brushed and shaped petals, which each had to be individually packed to prevent damage of any kind.
In order to meet the tight production and shipping schedule we had to ensure that we could execute every step of the process under one single roof, from blowing the glass to cutting and shaping the petals to packing each item for shipment. Doing so required reorganizing and preparing our manufacturing facility and processes specifically to meet the demands of this single project.
With our facility fully optimized to deliver the order, we precisely scheduled every one of our workers, from glassblowers to machinists to laser cutters, engineers, logistics and shipping specialists, managers and installers, to ensure that we met every one of our tight deadlines.
WORD FROM THE CZECH AMBASSADOR
Preciosa is one of the most successful Czech glassmakers in India, demonstrating the skill and creativity of Czech companies and honorably representing the Czech Republic in this distant land. Chandeliers from Preciosa have been popular with Indian maharajas of the past and still decorate numerous palace interiors today. Preciosa’s success in Mumbai is a modern continuation of this tradition.
Each of the close to forty thousand items had to be individually packed to ensure not a single piece received even a scratch or the slightest dent.
Each delivery filled four shipping containers. Aside from having to navigate across the earth’s stormiest seas, each ship also required specific certifications and permissions.
The entire installation required our twelve installers ten months to complete under the pressure of a highly exacting schedule.