The Welcome Wall that leads visitors through the forecourt of the National Museum in Canberra is a bespoke sculptural element designed to capture reflections of the surrounding landscape.
Fabricated in panels of satin and mirror polished stainless steel, the Welcome Wall provides the ideal backdrop for museum visitors to capture the perfect selfie. It’s also the ideal showcase of the highly specialised work we achieve here at Southern Steel Group. And it’s undeniable proof that we always go the extra mile for our clients.
We spoke with our partner in this project, Tim, and our own Mario Penza, lead contact on the project here at Southern Steel Group, about the challenges and rewards of working on this incredible project.
The Welcome Wall is constructed from panels of angled steel that curve with the direction of the path leading to the National Museum’s entrance. The top panels, fabricated in mirror finish stainless steel, match perfectly with the satin panels that line the bottom of the wall. It was no small challenge when you consider every single panel is a slightly different size.
Southern Steel Group worked side by side with Tim to achieve this flawless finish.
The Welcome Wall is a bespoke structure, so there was no template to work from. The scope of the project required meticulous planning and painstaking attention to detail. Tim knew they needed to partner with a prefabricator that could achieve the highest quality in custom steel processing.
Tim chose Southern Steel Group because he knew we had both the laser cutting capability and the in-house expertise to achieve the precision finish the project required. As Tim explains, “We went into the project with confidence, knowing that Southern Steel Group could deliver the level of service we needed.”
It’s no exaggeration to say the list of challenges involved in constructing the Welcome Wall was as long as your arm.
Aside from the constrictions of working in a public space with limited access, the biggest challenge was undoubtedly the design itself.
Every panel in the wall is a slightly different size and each one had to be perfect. The accuracy of the design allowed for zero tolerance in any variation.
“We were working with a very tight tolerance,” explains Mario. “If we made a millimetre mistake, we’d get a cumulative error… where one millimetre becomes two millimetres, and two becomes four, and so on. The accuracy requirement of each component had to be spot on.”
And to add another layer of complexity, the special 3M adhesive used to fix the panels to the substrate was an instant fix. Once it was stuck in there was no chance of moving it. This put pressure on Tim and his team during installation and it meant we had to look for solutions to mitigate as much risk as possible. Tim measured every panel and produced a template. We used this to produce a dummy run made from Alucobond. These extra steps were well worth the effort and gave us all confidence to move into processing the steel.
Sourcing quality steel
As experts in steel, Southern Steel Group sources the best quality steel for each project. The Welcome Wall required a highly specialised material and the finish needed protection during both processing and fabrication.
As no stainless steel is made in Australia, we sourced premium grade Italian stainless steel.
Logistics and timing had to be factored in and Tim was pleased that the materials arrived for processing exactly as scheduled.
The fact that Southern Steel Group has the largest plate processing capacity in NSW was a major factor for Tim. It meant we had the capability to process the oversized sheets that makes up the wall panels.
The delicate nature of the mirror finish stainless steel necessitated a precision processing solution. Our Trumpf TruLaser 3060 uses fibre technology to cut incredibly fast and is ideal for projects like the Welcome Wall, where the highest edge quality is required.
Precision steel processing
Thanks to the highly skilled team at Southern Steel Group, every panel was delivered to Tim’s exact specifications. Tim was impressed with our team’s project management and communication as the project moved forward.
The key to success for every project lies in the planning. Our expert planners ensured the tolerances and finer details were adhered to and used specialised nesting software to minimise waste and increase efficiency.
Putting the pieces together
The final step was making sure the panels arrived on site and organised in a way that would ensure Tim could install them as efficiently as possible. Basically, they were assembling a giant 3D stainless steel jigsaw puzzle. If one piece was out of place it would impact the entire project.
The packaging process was so complex that Mario supervised it personally. Every panel was wrapped and labelled so Tim and his team could unpack them in sequence. Over three days, Tim painstakingly mounted every panel and we’re pleased to report, every piece fitted perfectly.
An architectural legacy
At Southern Steel Group, we love the opportunity to push the boundaries of custom steel processing. The Welcome Wall was a project that allowed us to do just that. But it’s not just about achieving our own satisfaction. Much of the architectural steelwork we do is about the legacy we leave behind.
Incredible structures like the Welcome Wall are built to bring people joy and inspiration. It’s a privilege to be a part of these projects and to know they will still be standing long after we have hung up our tools.
Are you looking for a custom steel solution?
At Southern Steel Group, your supply and steel processing requirements are met under one roof. Find out more about our work architectural steel projects.