Magical Ice Kingdom
What was the brief?
Every year since 2012, we have installed The Magical Ice Kingdom for Hyde Park’s infamous Winter Wonderland. Our team is tasked with creating a new and exciting theme for the Ice Kingdom to bring joy and wonder to the 2.5million visitors that converge upon London’s Hyde park during its six week run every year.
How we approached the design
Winter Wonderland doesn’t open until November each year but our team begins work on it as soon as the previous year’s Ice Kingdom is complete. It is one of the most laborious and intense projects we work on but it is an absolute pleasure and the whole team is always excited to begin again.
Between January and May we spend time bouncing ideas back and forth between our team and the client. It is during this time that the theme, the story and design ideas are created and by May, we will have the full design of the event detailed out and confirmed. This will include countless concept drawings, reference images, 3D CAD of the event and an extremely long list of ice sculptures accompanied by structural engineer testing designs to ensure they are safe to create.
It will be around June that our team will begin to create the sculptures and as you can imagine, there is an enormous amount of preparation required. Over the next 5 to 6 months our team of 6 sculptors will work around the clock to ensure everything is ready to be installed in October. There is a short period of time in which we have to install everything which means a large majority of the ice sculptures have to be premade, stored and then installed on site. This includes all sculptures that are no larger than a human sized figurine as anything larger will have to be built from scratch on site.
Once we’re on site, we then increase to a team of 30 and have a tight 3 weeks to complete everything, and we’re very aware that the clock is ticking! Some of the ice and snow sculptures we create are the size of houses and in total we use well over 350 tonnes of ice to create the Ice Kingdom. The construction site transforms into a building site for the 3 weeks we’re there!
From creating and sculpting mammoth snow blocks the size of a bus, to building castles and walls out of the 100’s of tonnes of ice blocks delivered to site, it’s one hell of a task and to do so we have to create a high quantity of artificially created real snow. Our team works with a machine that produces a continuous stream of ice flakes that are funnelled into a rectangular mould.
This is one of the most labour intensive processes of the project requiring two people to stand inside the mould and stamp down the snow whilst adding water. This ensures it is compacted enough so that when the sides of the mould are removed it doesn’t collapse. Our team of sculptors then use a range of tools from Chainsaws to ice chisels to sculpt these vast blocks of snow. It’s generally a start big and work your way down process, this means there is a point towards the end that you’re installing incredibly delicate ice sculptures with a forklift with almost no space to manoeuvre. There are very few people we trust to do this!
Our team love working on the Magical Ice Kingdom and the great thing about a project like this is that we have a fantastic crew that’s always keen for the next year. Without a heroic work ethic from everyone it wouldn’t get done. If there is anything we’ve learnt working on this project year after year, it’s that not just anyone that can do this job. There’s a unique and varied set of skills one needs, liking the cold is a big one!
Challenges and How we overcame them
The biggest challenge we face each year when working on the Magical Ice Kingdom is the size of the job and the enormous amount of preparation that is required. When dealing with such a large but intricate project every detail counts which is why we spend the best part of a year working alongside the client to ensure everything is perfect.
Organisation and preparedness is the key to success which is why our teams work long hours throughout the year and in particular, in the three weeks we spend on site installing and creating the snow and ice sculptures in Central London. It can often take up to 12 hours alone to compact the snow into a single mould in order to create the perfect block to then start working from!
It’s a cold job from start to finish but our sculpting team is dedicated every year to creating the most magical experience for children and adults across London.