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May 2016 | Opera

As simple as a mechanism may sound, the bigger it is, the more complex it gets! For Médée by Hoffman, directed by Jean-Yves Ruf and decorated by Laure Pichat for the Rouen and Dijon opera houses, most of the floor consists in 7 aligned trapdoors of 6 meters long and 1.5 meter wide, sliding over a distance of their own length. Fully accessible by dozens of performers when closed, the trapdoors open individually to reveal a pool filled with water on the whole stage. Yet, the overall thickness of the floor needs to fit within 180 mm.

This kind of scopes requires the right level of simplexity, and proper mechanical engineering expertise. The biggest challenge is to deal with the unperfect parallelism of 8 guiding rails over 12 meters, while in a watery environment, within a reasonable budget. Here, choosing the right amount of mechanical clearance, allowing enough leverage on it and defining clear setup instructions are the keys to a successful operation.

Then, when dozens of artists perform over those trapdoors, they need to be strong enough, and very stiff for the guiding to remain effective… while still light enough for technicians to handle them during touring!

ExMachina provided mechanical design and finite element analysis according to the life cycle of the set. Our engineers also provided consultancy to manually put those trapdoors in motion from understage.