What do you get when you drop 30,000 tonnes of sand, 65 professional sculptors and a Victoria-based designer into the centre of the Middle East?
Answer: The world’s largest temporary theme park.
“It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time,” said Damon Langlois, creative director for 1001 Arabian Nights, a monumental 80-sculpture project in the heart of Kuwait City.
An accomplished local sand sculptor and product designer by trade, Langlois will spend the next six weeks overseeing the construction of nearly 80 sand sculptures across an area the size of four soccer fields, or about 28,000 square metres. The project is part of the Remal International Sand and Light Festival, hosted by Kuwait’s technology industry that begins Jan. 4, 2014.
“In sand sculpture, there’s so many things that can go wrong,” he said before departing Victoria. “It is just sand and water, so the normal elements of risk are always there. Gravity is obviously a major component, and extreme weather calamities, like what happens if a huge sand storm comes through.”
When complete, Langlois and his team will have built walkable structures like a sand cafe, children’s maze, palace and even a performance amphitheatre using more than 1,500 dump trucks of sand.
Langlois has been fine-tuning his hobby for more than 20 years, culminating in a 2011 solo win at the World Championship of Sculpting in Fort Myers, Florida. He’s also been a regular competitor at sand sculpting competitions closer to home in Parksville and Harrison, B.C.
But it was his work in Middle Eastern and European projects that caught the attention of Kuwaiti organizers, who dreamt up 1001 Arabian Nights as a way of promoting tourism and patriotism in the country.
“What initially hooked me was the act of doing (sculpting), the intense relaxation,” Langlois said. “It’s a very strange art form in that it combines a bunch of different elements of performing and acrobatics in a way, because you’re having to climb up forms and work in weird positions. And of course, it’s part magic, too.”
Langlois estimates his 65-member team will put in 16,000 work hours to complete the project, while the tallest sculpture will be more than 15 metres tall.
“We know this isn’t the tallest ever, but it’s certainly the biggest (by sand tonnage),” he said. “A lot of this hasn’t been done before. My day job is certainly a lot more simple then the construction of a temporary theme park out of sand.”
When complete, 1001 Arabian Nights will remain open to the public until April 2014.