We were approached by Pen Y Bryn Joinery who were involved in the creation of a building in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia which was to act as the new headquarters for the Saudi Press Agency. The design of the auditorium section of the building was very unique as it had been designed in the shape of a globe and was to be clad with tiles so it looked exactly like the Earth. It was Pen Y Bryn Joinery’s role to create a framework to aid the production of the tiles, however, this presented a challenge. Pen Y Bryn Joinery had to be sure that the framework used would be an exact replica of the structure in Saudia Arabia so that the landmass ceramics would fit perfectly to the shape of the sphere. To do this they needed to create a cost effective replica of the curvature of the structure here in the UK.

A large industrial project like this has many challenges, the measurements and curvature of the tiles had to be completely accurate with allowance made for the clay to settle from wet to dry, as this results in shrinkage. It was quickly established a wooden ‘former’ was required to be able to support the weight of the materials as well as the people who were creating the tiles. It would need to be large enough to exactly replicate the curvature of the sphere at any point across its surface and ensure that each continent could be manufactured as one.

Minera Roof Trusses were perfectly placed to provide a bespoke solution to the brief we had been presented with. Our vast experience in designing and creating trusses, combined with our state of the art 3D roof engineering software, enabled us to render 3D drawings of the curve structure to the correct dimensions and fit trussed rafters to this curve. Pen Y Bryn Joinery could then view the completed design and its exact specifications before it went into production. It was agreed that the structure needed to be 9% larger than the finished sphere to allow for the shrinkage of the clay during the drying process. Once we had the correct measurements we set to work on creating the replica curve with our high quality roof trusses. The finished span of the trusses totalled 18 metres, a relatively large structure but something that we are used to. We had very specific deadlines and tight timescales but as with all our projects we were careful to keep within the time frame laid out from the beginning, so that there would be no delays for the client in delivering their materials to their customer.

By applying our expertise in roof trusses to a unique project like this, we were able to construct a working section of the globe as it would be in Saudi Arabia, so that the other trades involved in the project could accurately construct the plaster, clay and ceramic tiles here in the UK. Once the perfectly shaped globe ceramics were created and then cut into pieces, they could then be shipped and installed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Pen y Bryn Joinery investigated various methods for the structural work of what was the largest segment of the sphere which could be accommodated within the warehouse where the work was to be undertaken. By using our computer generated designs for the trusses, the client could then set the radii from the centre block. Once in place, they could fit softwood framework in between and clad the whole structure with plywood and smooth out the ‘straight’ lines with screed. The clay was then laid out by the artisans to the correct curve, having allowed for firing tolerances. The mould was used time and again to produce various parts of the Globe to make all the continents.

After consultation with Minera Roof Trusses, we used computer generated designs for the trusses which were to be set as radii from the centre block. The finished product was a great success and we were pleased to work hand in hand with Minera to achieve this.

Gwynn Parry, Contracts Manager, Pen-y-Bryn Joinery Ltd

Replicating a project of this size takes specialist expertise and accuracy, along with carefully planned logistics and teamwork. This unusual request was warmly received by our design team who love a challenge. By understanding the complexities of the measurements involved in the project, we were able to construct the perfect model replica using our 3D roof engineering software and subsequently manufacture the roof trusses required in order to create the correct curvature of the globe, so that there would be no issues when it came to installation in the Middle East. The final project resulted in the creation of the exquisite globe shaped auditorium that stands today in Saudi Arabia, 27 metres tall with a capacity of over 220 people.

  • Client: Pen Y Bryn Joinery
  • Installation: North Wales for a project in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  • Date: 2013
  • Number of Trusses & Floor Joists: 44
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