Clever layouts and attention to detail allow an organiser to expand an event. Here, 20-20 Events, the event and site management specialist, and Neptunus, the structure company, detail how changes to the event’s temporary structures enabled Masterpiece London, the art and collectibles fair, to grow

By reconfiguring the layout at Masterpiece London 2018, the organising team were able to grow the world-renowned art and collectibles fair by almost 20 per cent.

The new arrangement was a task laid at the feet of 20-20 Events and Neptunus, which worked with the event’s organising team to create a layout that would enable the seven-day event to expand, creating additional space for the world’s leading galleries to display everything from fine art and design to furniture and jewellery.

Neptunus has supplied temporary infrastructure to Masterpiece London since it was launched in 2010. The new format introduced for the 2018 fair, which took place from June 28 until July 4, allowed organisers to attract 160 international exhibitors displaying their work for sale to an audience of new and established collectors from around the world. This was an increase from 153.

“We are delighted to have worked with Neptunus for the last eight years,” explained Lucie Kitchener, managing director of Masterpiece London. “They’ve enabled us to increase the footprint of the fair, which improved the flow, especially during our busy preview day. We were also pleased to have been able to increase the number of exhibitors to 160, which we feel is an optimum number for our guests to enjoy the best of international art, design, furniture and jewellery brought together under one roof.”

First time for everything

Previously, Masterpiece London’s two main exhibition halls spanned 35 metres and 50 metres – two Evolution structures were linked to a third smaller Evolution building that formed the fair’s entrance, reception area, security check-point, cloakroom and media centre. For 2018, Neptunus’ designers replaced the three structures with two huge roof spans – one measured 50 metres and the 35 metre hall was extended to 65 metres.

“The new layout demonstrated the amazing flexibility of our Evolution technology,” said April Trasler, managing director of Neptunus. “We are able to ‘cut out’ corners to work around the site space available and any obstacles that were in the way. The second exhibition hall was 65m x 135m under a single span roof. Our Evolution was able to span this huge width with only 12 internal support legs in the whole footprint, which were cleverly hidden in the interior layout.”

The new layout provided the organiser with more than 2,000 square metres of additional space – creating a total of 15,525 square metres – and enabled the internal fit-out team to create a new cruciform shape inside the temporary venue. An additional central aisle, running east to west at a right angle to the existing main aisle, was also introduced to help improve the flow of visitors. Plus, it meant that new gin bars could be introduced, which proved popular with visitors.

Trasler added: “It is the first time to my knowledge that a structure with one 65-metre wide roof span has been built for an event in the UK.  The challenges have been the same for the 2018 event as in previous years. The time to install and remove our equipment has not changed as has the requirement for services such as lighting, air conditioning ducts etc to be placed in the roof construction at ground level and be lifted without space frame roof using hydraulics.  The 65m x 135m roof with everything in it weighed more than 175 tonnes, but was successfully lifted ahead of schedule.”

Best build ever

Stabilo International, responsible for the fair’s fit-out and interior design, retained the wrap around the front of Neptunus’ structures, which forms a fabric replica of the Royal Hospital Chelsea; home to the Chelsea Pensioners.

To ensure minimal disruption on site, Neptunus and Masterpiece London worked closely with 20-20 Events to ensure the historic grounds were protected throughout the complex build programme.

Steve Cunningham, director of 20-20 Events, explained further: “During Masterpiece London 2017, we talked about changing the layout of the 2018 event. After the show, we conducted a feasibility study and asked ourselves ‘If we’re going to do it, can it be done in the same timeframe?’

“We had no extra time so the challenge was to build  bigger tents in exactly the same time but with more stand contractors, more exhibitors and more shippers and logistics specialists bringing art and equipment in. We had more to organise.”

Like Neptunus, 20-20 Events has worked on Masterpiece London since its launch. The event management specialist provided site management, production and health and safety expertise to Masterpiece London and liaised with Alexandra Reece, the event’s head of operations and events.

Cunningham continued: “It was important for us to find ways to accommodate the larger structures on a tight site. We redesigned the site, changed the back of house configuration, spent more on trackway, limited the boneyard and asked contractors not to store as much kit on site.

“We built on ground that we had not built on before and we had to create a new fire exit and evacuation plan. But all of the contractors we used stepped up. They looked at their processes and we probably delivered the best build ever and we were more ready than we had ever been. And that’s probably because people looked at the project with fresh eyes.”

Huge challenge

According to Cunningham, Masterpiece London was better even though it was bigger. But what stood out about the event?

“The first thing that stands out is the increase in size – it was a huge challenge to build bigger structures with no extra time and to the same high standards.

“Also, we had to work with Thames Tideway, which is carrying out major works, and ask them to not do any piling work during the show. The works had a huge impact on the show, particularly traffic management and noise monitoring, so that was a challenge.

“The site has a one-way traffic management system in place and because of the larger structures, this was difficult. We had taken one of the structures so far north that we had a narrow but accessible route through the site but we made it work. We found ways to get some of the installations in and out of the tent, whilst maintaining security, and Neptunus was instrumental in that.

“If it wasn’t for the new layout and reconfigured site, we could not have achieved what we achieved,” Cunningham concluded.