Step by Step: The Art of a Building Wrap

How Art Basel in Miami Beach inspired a colossal construction cover up.

At the junction of North American and Latin American music, art, and dance lies Miami Beach, a coastal resort city in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Here, every December, one of the largest art shows in the country, Art Basel in Miami Beach, attracts 70,000-plus visitors. With more than 250 of the world’s foremost international art galleries displaying works by 4000 artists – including paintings, sculptures, photography, film, and video – artists, art critics, and art enthusiasts alike are treated to a one-of-a-kind, week-long art extravaganza.

When one of our longtime clients, the Faena Group, a luxury hotel company specializing in the creation of distinctive environments integrating residences and hotels with art and cultural spaces, wanted to completely encapsulate a 16-story building they’re restoring near the big art event, we jumped at the chance – and the challenge.

We had already covered the street-facing side of this building about six months previously, in the Faena Group’s Pantone Red 32. This time we would be wrapping the entire building in that same color, but in a shorter-than-normal turn time and with inclement weather predicted. 

That’s when we set about doing what Thomas Printworks does best: making their project our priority. Here’s how we did it:

 1. The Master Plan – Creative Concepts and Site Surveys

First, we met our contacts from the Faena Group in their renovation trailer at the building site, about a mile from the Miami Beach Convention Center. Our site survey team consisted of myself (inside sales associate), our production install head, our VP of Florida operations, and the client’s account executive. We always try to bring the subject matter experts (SME) of a particular project in at the start to reduce survey errors and measurement inconsistencies, but to also have the most knowledgeable team members choosing the best materials and substrates from the get-go.

Because of our past work with the Faena Group, and knowing that their executives love and incorporate art into all of their properties, the design would have to fit a predetermined aesthetic – not only to complement the surrounding buildings (also owned by the Faena Group), but also to meet rigid city ordinances and standards. It was quickly determined that building on and adding to the original concept for the street-facing wrap from several months ago would be ideal. 

Before leaving, the client shared copies of the building plan with our team, detailing the square footage and dimensions of each floor, window, and balcony. At Thomas Printworks, however, we conduct a complete site survey with every install we do, because it’s always better to get visual confirmation before beginning the work.

Using a Bosch GLM 40 digital measuring tape, we were able to capture measurement data up to 135 feet, with 1/16-inch accuracy. The whole process took about an hour, which is nothing compared to the time it could save in measurement mistakes. Satisfied with our site verifications, the SME team then discussed the materials that would work best. Based on our similar, partial install from months ago, we again chose to use Ultraflex UltraMesh Premium 328, which has the added advantage of being recyclable at the end of its useful life, along with a harness and tension cabling system. Next, our team would need to create mockups of the artwork and get client approval.

2. Prepping For Perfection – Mockups, Samples, and Approvals

The final portion of the site survey always includes setup for the next step in our process: digital photo mockups and client approval. So, while still on site, our SME team took dozens of photos of the building on their smartphones from varying angles and distances. Once back in our office, they passed these images to our design team and color manager.

Using Adobe Photoshop CC 2017, our color manager found the best photos that showcased what the art would look like from every side of the property, and superimposed the Faena Group’s red onto the exterior of the building. The art was then sent to our SME team for internal review, and once approved, emailed to the client.

After receiving client mockup approval, our team produced a small, physical proof of the UltraMesh material and delivered it to the client to ensure it satisfied their requirements. Once we received sign off on that sample, we moved on to the next step: producing thousands of feet of material.

3. Seeing Red, Nearly 9000 Feet of It – Production

For our shop, the end of the year is always crunch time. We have many Art Basel-related clients, all needing their work completed in roughly the same time period, in addition to the shortened turn time of the Faena Group project. As a result, we scheduled production crews to work nonstop over a 48-hour period to complete the building wrap project.

Earlier on, during the site survey, it had been decided to set the artwork up in vertical panels, so the final materials would be produced in long strips to line up with the nearly 175-foot-high planes of the building’s exterior. Using an HP Latex 3500 high-volume printer, two print operators worked in rotation, while four finishing team members, aided by a Leister Varimat V2 heat welder and an Edward Segal Model 4KGW automated grommet machine, simultaneously took the roll-to-roll mesh off as soon as it was produced, and then fused the edges of the material, before adding grommets to the final product.

It was an extremely fluid and standardized process that yielded the maximum amount of signage within a minimum amount of time.

Equipment and Supplies Used


Hardware and Software:

  • Adobe Photoshop CC 2017
  • HP Latex 3500 printer
  • Leister Varimat V2 heat welder
  • Edward Segal Model 4KGW automated grommet machine

Materials:

  • Ultraflex UltraMesh Premium 328 

Tools and Miscellaneous:

  • Bosch GLM 40 digital measuring tape
  • Harness and tension cabling system
     

4. Reaching New Heights (and Widths) – Installation

Our install crew consisted of five team members and a single install lead, working 12-hour days. Unfortunately, the team encountered several setbacks in the form of torrential rains and heavy, sustained winds, which delayed installation by several days. But with proper time and resource management, the project was still completed over a 48-hour period and finished on time.

Following the standards set by our previous installation, we set about removing the older harness and tension cabling system and UltraMesh material from the front of the building and installed an entire new cabling system set on all four sides of the property. This included drilling harnesses into the top of the building, as well as planting them into the concrete floor at the bottom of the building in order to pull everything taut in the end.

Cables were then run through the harnesses and weaved through the grommets of the Ultraflex UltraMesh material, with the install teams making their way to the roof first to attach the material to the harness there, and then walking and weaving the material and cables down, floor by floor, and finally attaching them to the harnesses located on the ground. 

Once the install was completed and met our team’s expectations, we again walked the property, this time with the Faena Group to confirm their approval. The client was extremely happy with the finished product and, because the recyclable UltraMesh should last about a year, our teams have already begun discussing possible wrap options if the building renovation is still in progress leading up to Art Basel Miami Beach 2018.

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