Silicone Sets the Stage - Wacker Chemie AG


Silicone Sets the Stage

Israeli designer Ron Arad invented a gigantic 360° canvas for the Roundhouse Theatre in London. The curtain experiments with light and material in a revolutionary way and has been a crowd-pleaser around the world. The Curtain Call installation is made of WACKER silicone rubber.

The canvas is used from both sides. The audience can part the curtain at any point on either side and walk through it while the images projected on a cylinder-shaped area spanning 500 square meters fall into place around them. At the same time, the canvas reveals the real world behind the scenes. This kind of vast curtain had never been seen prior to its premiere in the summer of 2011. Consisting of 5,600 suspended ceiling-to-floor rods, Curtain Call, a 360° installation created by industrial designer and architect Ron Arad, enthralled the audience at London’s Roundhouse Theatre, a former railway engine shed dating back to the 19th century. “I didn’t tell the audience how to use the curtain. I wanted them to be curious and delighted,” said the London-based Israeli in an interview.

Versatile Material

The stability of the silicone rubber is checked in a WACKER laboratory in Burghausen using a tensile tester. The mechanical resistance is crucial so as to enable the audience to touch the curtain without causing any damage.

Arad owes the resounding success of his idea, which has subsequently been installed at other locations, to his creativity and the versatile properties of the silicone rubber used to create Curtain Call. “The idea had us hooked right from the start. Ron had a totally new take on how to use our products,” said Nick Soudah, managing director of Silex Silicones Ltd. The British silicone manufacturer from Bordon, 30 kilometers north of Portsmouth, immediately knew which material had the requisite properties: WACKER’s ELASTOSIL® solid silicone rubber.

This class of high-temperature vulcanizing silicone rubber has been tried and proven as a reliable material for a range of extremely varied applications for over 70 years. It is the standard material used for manufacturing hoses, seals, membranes and molded parts in the medical-technology, pharmaceutical and food industries. The properties can be varied by using additives. For example, heat resistance is achieved with stabilizers and pigment pastes regulate light permeability. By adding a catalyst, the raw silicone rubber’s base materials bond during heating to form a three-dimensional network, which experts call curing. “That’s why WACKER’s solid rubber grades offers high elasticity and good mechanical properties,” explained Dr. Andreas Bacher, head of technical service engineering at WACKER SILICONES.