On Oct. 1st, 2019, when the Hubei Province’s float of “Glorious Hubei” slowly passed Tiananmen Square at 12:24, its brilliant light effects, wonderful performances and Bingbing the vibrant mascot of the coming Military World Games in Wuhan caught the eyes of audiences immediately.
Prof. Cai Xinyuan of School of Architecture and Urban Planning of HUST was head of the float decoration team. “HUST is responsible for design and decoration of float of Hubei Province, which is an honor for the over 200 workers from our team and other professional teams. I have been having anxiety from the day of acceptance of the task, and wouldn’t dare to relax a little bit. I just felt so ‘relieved’ to see the float passed Tiananmen Square successfully.” Cai Xinyuan breathed a sigh with great relief.
Early in this year, Prof. Cai and his team stood out from several rounds of competition, and was entrusted to design and decorate the float. The whole work included body designs, overall control of artistic effects, decoration design as well as digital design. According to Prof. Cai, “In other words, everything you can see in front of Tiananmen Square is accomplished by us.”
What the team experienced later shows that the work was much more than decorating a float. They really built a float and then decorated it! It’s not easy to get the whole things done, which’s pretty much “building” of float from nothing instead of simple decoration of float. At the very beginning, the team got nothing but t several conceptual graphs with basic dimensions from the project owner .
It’s introduced that on the body of the float, Hubei’s Phoenix spread wings at the intersection of two rivers, while hexapetalous flower blossomed to greet the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on behalf of 61 million people in Hubei Province.
As the saying goes “Hubei’s Phoenix spread wings at the intersection of Yangzi river and Han River”, “Hubei’s Phoenix” is one of the most representative regional cultural symbols of Hubei Province. The soaring Hubei’s Phoenix’ spread wings, which symbolized the province’s enterprising spirit. Ornaments that symbolized Yangtze Economic Belt and Han River Ecological Economic Belt on both sides of float constituted an integral part of the phoenix, which not only reflected Hubei Province’s development strategy “supported by the two belts”, but also gave flexibility and connotation of “home to wonders” to the float.
The head of float took the shape of Three Gorges Dam, which demonstrated the major construction achievements made by Hubei Province over the last seven decades, and also delivered the meaning of “China’s critical project that benefits its people”. The intersection of two rivers on top of float has reflected Hubei Province’s initiative in building “Heart of Yangtze River Civilization” .
The six petals at the rear end of float ascended spirally along with the calla model, and showed “blossoming” effect through slow rotation and light wave transmission, which implied the coordinated development of six provinces in Central China, gave prominence to the leading and supporting role of high technologies, and conveyed the firm belief in building Hubei province into a critical strategic pivot for the rise of Central China.
Manufacturing process took the same efforts as design works. The float went “alive”, while the team was “tortured” by it.
The highlights of this float are the LED screens, which are almost all curved screens, arc screens and fully 3-D screens rather than regular screens. Screen structure design, module assembly and power control system all required to be finished by the team independently, which caused geometric growth instead of simple adding of workload of the team.
Cai said that “innovation lies in everywhere, no one knows what is going to happen, and you can only solve problems in the course of manufacturing.” Started from scratch without any previous experience, the team had to try to solve constantly emerging “difficulties” during the progress.
Tao Mengchu, team member and graduate student of School of Architecture and Urban Planning still got fresh memory of manufacturing process of “Hubei’s Phoenix”. The 14m long and 4m high phoenix has very high requirements on processes and control over details, and several attempts were made to build phoenix body alone. According to Tao Mengchu, “the color of Hubei’s Phoenix got to show natural gradient with intense aesthetic feeling, so we repeatedly compared effects of pantone color card and that of field spraying and made a lot of modifications.”
Difficulties in control over details were expected by the team, while “problems” in manufacturing materials also came out of nowhere. The fire protection criteria for floats of National Day Parade were higher than that of normal days, and Hubei’s Phoenix finished with arduous works and almost perfect processes was remade due to failure to meet fire protection requirements.
It’s unbearably hot to work in Wuhan in July and August, and the team stayed in an airtight plant for assembly more than ten hours a time. Xiao Ran, team member and doctoral student of School of Architecture and Urban Planning couldn’t forget what happened, “The plant was fully enclosed, and there were a great number of cabinets, generators and controllers for control uses, which made it extremely hot inside the float. Everyone was busily engaged in field debugging under high temperature to three or four o’clock in the morning.”
“Uncertainties” occurred during assembly process tested the mental quality of team members. “Since nothing is standard, everything has to be designed and built by ourselves. The display screens were often removed after installation. Sometimes they didn’t work after time-consuming installation, and you had to completely disassemble them to find causes,” Cai Xinyuan sighed helplessly, “you may assemble them strictly in accordance with drawings, and they just wouldn’t light up with unknown causes.”
The team got no special approaches for those problems, and they had to make relentless attempts with patience and perseverance. The whole assembly process of float took only three to four hours from over ten hours at the beginning, and the team solved successively occurred “uncertainties” by small progresses.
The float was manufactured, but what should we play on those screens? Zhang Jian, professor at School of Architecture and Urban Planning had been working with the problem with his video team. According to Zhang Jian, “We have totally installed 16 screens on the float with total area of 80m2, which were distributed at 15 positions throughout the float. What’s more, they were all special-shaped screens, the effects were great on computer screen, but completely different on screens of the float.”
The team made a lot of modifications to find the most suitable contents and display methods due to special limits of those screens. “We made 26 versions successively, and eventually picked 4 of them. The length of main performance video for Tiananmen Square’s 132 seconds, the contents covered 17 districts, cities and prefectures, and the length of source materials alone exceeded 30 hours,” Zhang Jian said that, “In addition to LED screens, we also used 6 high power projectors to hide an “Easter egg” underneath the hexapetalous flower for its effects at night.”
It took 132 days from the team’s receipt of task in the second half of May to the appearance of “Glorious Hubei” on Tiananmen Square on October 1. Coincidentally, it took 132 seconds for “Glorious Hubei” to reach west ornamental pillar from east ornamental pillar of Tiananmen Square.
Through conversion of 132 days of great efforts into 132 seconds of excellent performance, people of HUST have both delivered great results for the “Glorious Hubei”, and made a “splendid” contribution to the university’s “double first-class” initiative.